By Lance Rinker
There once was a time when you couldn’t turn on a television without seeing former National Football League quarterback Vince Young on the screen. If you weren’t seeing some highlight reel play then you were listening to sports analysts talk about him on sports talk radio. He was the LeBron James of Houston when he came out of high school and began his college football career for Coach Mack Brown’s University of Texas Longhorns.
Young’s list of accomplishments as a college quarterback is seemingly endless. He was the first player in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-A history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He was the first quarterback in UT history to earn consensus first-team All-America honors. In addition to 15 other UT records, he holds a number of Bowl Championship Series and Rose Bowl marks. Additionally, no other UT player will wear the number 10 because it was retired by the university.
Young was drafted third overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2006, won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, went to the Pro Bowl twice, won Sporting News’ comeback player of the year award in 2009, has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times, was on the cover of Madden in 2008, and earned nearly $34 million in salary playing in the NFL.
His rise to stardom was quick and his fall out of the spotlight occurred over the course of several seasons. It happened due to a combination of off-field and on-field issues including constant arguments with then-head coach Jeff Fisher. There also were legal problems, and ultimately he became a joke among NFL fans as a former first-round quarterback who flamed out due to a myriad of poor decisions and appearing to not be as passionate about playing the pro game as he was in college.
Young hasn’t started an NFL game since December 2011 when he started three games for the Philadelphia Eagles (as the backup to Michael Vick who was out with an injury), passing for 866 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. Since then his career has floundered as he has struggled to prove he is capable of being more than a practice squad or third-string quarterback for teams like the Buffalo Bills (2012), Green Bay Packers (2013), and most recently the Cleveland Browns (2014).
For all his accolades in college and the NFL, Young has squandered the nearly $34 million he earned as a player and no longer is employed by an NFL team. He has stated multiple times that the Canadian Football League is not a consideration and that if his NFL career is over then he has a position at the University of Texas waiting for him. He turned down a two-year contract offer by the Montreal Alouettes in November.
“No disrespect to Canada,” Young told FOX 26 in Houston last month. “They’ve got some great players that I know play out there, great sport as well, but it’s never been an option for me.”
It’s possible that Young is allowing his ego to get the best of him. He’s accomplished more as an NFL quarterback than the majority of quarterbacks drafted in the first round. You can’t fault him for feeling that he remains a capable quarterback option for quarterback needy NFL teams. But if Young wants to prove to the NFL that he’s worth taking another shot on him then he needs to be willing to prove the ability is still there wherever the opportunity presents itself – right now, that opportunity appears to be in the CFL.
What it boils down to is Young needs to make a decision about whether he wants to play football or not, whether it’s in the NFL or the CFL. If he wants to play, if he still has that passion and drive to prove those assessing his current skill-set are wrong, then he will.
“If football doesn’t work out for me, the university has a great job for me,” Young said in April at the Touchdown Club of Houston luncheon featuring new UT coach Charlie Strong.
That great job Young spoke of would involve serving as an ambassador for the university, take part in speaking engagements, and possibly help recruit.
While Young continues to hold out hope he can continue his NFL career, he did go back and finish his four-year degree in May 2013. Oftentimes, former NFL players have no plan to support themselves or their families outside of football but Young is separating himself from that group by completing his education.
After turning age 31 on May 18, if the NFL isn’t knocking on Young’s door by now then they likely never will. Perhaps it truly is time for him to move forward and begin that next phase of his life and career, outside of professional football. After all, football seems to have moved on from Vince Young so perhaps it’s time for Vince Young to move on from football.