Oct. 31, 2012
Jackie LaPenta, Texas Media Relations
With his name prominently displayed on the sign out front, former Texas quarterback Vince Young sits in his downtown Austin restaurant delighted to be back in the town that shares mutual admiration.
As an NFL free agent, Young took time to visit The University of Texas and join his former team on the field as an honorary captain for the matchup between the Longhorns and new Big 12 member, the West Virginia Mountaineers, on Oct. 6.
“I am living the dream,” Young said as he looked around at his elegant restaurant.
“I have had some good, some bad and some bumps and bruises, but I put in a lot of hard work for these opportunities.”
After being in camp with the Buffalo Bills this summer, Young has remained in peak football condition as he waits for a call from an NFL team.
“I just want to tell all the teams, general managers and coaches that I am here,” Young said. “A lot of people say that I am down, that I am quitting, that I don’t have that ‘it’ any more. But I am ready. I will give 110 percent to any team.”
Young proved to UT and all college football fans alike that his ‘it’ is the investment.
The Houston, Texas, native was one of the country’s top high school recruits and was named Parade Magazine's and Student Sports’ 2001 National Player of the Year and also won the 2001 Texas 5A Offensive Player of the Year Award.
“When I first got the call from Coach [Mack] Brown, all the coaches came and sat in my small living room I had in the hood,” Young recalled. “I was sitting on the floor and Coach Brown sat on the floor with me. That meant a lot to me, and it showed how much they really wanted me to come [to UT]. I fell right into the family.”
Brown’s personal touch enthralled Young, and he decided to come to Texas. There were some challenging times as Young redshirted his freshman year and competed with Chance Mock for the starting job as a redshirt freshman.
“A lot of people wanted me to be a pocket passer, and I wasn’t one of those guys - I could run it, too.” Young said. “But I stuck with it and had a conversation with Coach letting him know how I felt about sitting in the pocket and that I thought I could bring more to the table. He really listened, and that is why I respect him and the other coaches so much.”
Halfway through the 2003 campaign, Young became the starter against Iowa State and went on to lead the Longhorns to a 6-1 record as the first-string quarterback. He continued this winning streak and guided the team to a near perfect 12-1 record in 2004, ending with a 38-37 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.
With the program on the rise, all eyes were on the Longhorns as they were seeded second in the AP preseason rankings behind No. 1 USC to begin the 2005 season.
“We knew our schedule at the start of spring,” Young said. “Myself, Rod Wright and Selvin Young as the leaders on the team, wrote on the board that anybody who wanted to beat Ohio State [should] be at the practice field at 7 a.m. And the whole team showed up.
“This dedication that we put in it solidified who we were as the University of Texas. We wanted to let everyone know that just because we played in the Rose Bowl last year doesn’t mean we aren’t going to come back again like we did.”
UT defeated the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, 25-22, in the second game of the season. Young threw for 270 yards and two TDs while rushing for 76 yards to break Ohio State's 36-game home non-conference winning streak.
The Longhorns then took this momentum to become the eighth team in Texas’ 120-year history to go undefeated throughout an entire season and the first since the 1969 National Championship team.
Texas’ accomplishments that season had earned them a trip to contend for the title in the National Championship game where the Longhorns were slated to face the favored USC Trojans. The Rose Bowl was scheduled as the host site, which was practically located in USC’s backyard. Additionally, Young lost the Heisman Trophy race to USC running back Reggie Bush.
“They were giving it to USC,” Young said. “It was like we were 12-0 for nothing - that someone just handed us 12-0 and now we are playing in the National Championship. Everyone felt we were the underdog, and we were going to lose, which is okay, because I love being the underdog.”
As promised, the two undefeated squads battled to the end with five lead changes and several huge momentum shifts leading up to the waning moments of the contest. With only two minutes to go, the Texas defense made a crucial stop on fourth down to give Young and the offense a chance for the win with Texas trailing by five.
“When the defense made that stop they challenged us as an offense,” Young said. “When I stepped into the huddle I said, ‘The defense is challenging us to win this game, what are we going to do? No one needs to do anything spectacular, just stay with what you have been doing and take care of your assignment. Let’s go win this ball game.’ We took it one play at a time all the way down.”
Young orchestrated a drive from UT’s own 44-yard line, covering 10 plays and 56 yards culminating in a fourth-and-five play where the entire weight of the team, the university and Longhorn nation fell on Young's shoulders.
“Coach [Greg] Davis [had asked me] what would it be if I had a last drive or a last play [earlier in the week],” Young said. “So I had that experience of getting it in my head [that it would come down to] the last drive.
“He said we are going to do a pass so that you can throw it or run it if it’s not there. And it played out just like he said.”
Longhorn fans rejoiced after Young’s eight-yard touchdown run, and the successful two-point conversion secured the 41-38 victory and brought the National Championship Trophy back to the city of Austin after a 35-year hiatus.
Young was drafted with the third pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, and he was named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that season and earned two Pro Bowl selections in 2007 and 2009. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
Today, Young has used his status as an athlete and a celebrity to become involved with philanthropy and entrepreneurial work with the development of the Vince Young
Foundation and the Vince Young
The mission of the Vince Young
Foundation “is to provide empowerment, resources and leadership opportunities to equip our next generation of leaders, from all walks of life to believe, to achieve and to succeed.”
The Vince Young
Foundation endorses things such as scholarship camps, educational camps and college visits to educate students and their families about loans, the application process and what life on campus is like.
“The high school dropout [rate] is extremely high right now, and the reason is because kids feel like they can’t go to college or they don’t have the funds to go to college,” Young said. “What my foundation does is, we partner up with Generation Texas to let them know there are so many different things out there that can help them get to college.”
Seven years after its inception, the organization has been successful in touching the lives of many kids by presenting opportunities that were otherwise not present. With the steady growth of the foundation, Young extended his enterprise by opening Vince Young
Steakhouse in 2010.
The football star teamed up with longtime family friend Phil Brown and his wife, Laura, to create Vince Young
Steakhouse, which opened on November 6 of that year.
“Vince found out at our wedding that we were opening up a restaurant and wanted to be involved,” Phil Brown, co-owner of Vince Young
Steakhouse said. “We were planning on opening a smaller French-type restaurant, but with Vince’s name on it, it can’t be a small production. So that is how the steakhouse came about.”
The eatery has been voted the No. 1 athlete-owned restaurant by Yahoo! Sports and speaks to the prosperity that comes with everything Young touches.
“It is a blessing to see how we got this place up and running,” Young said. “So many restaurants go under and a lot of people talk about how athletes can’t open up restaurants and how they fail, but I took that challenge. I love challenges.”
Young’s desire to seek out the path less travelled is what has given him the strength and determination to overcome the adversities in his life and create the present ventures that he has. These characteristics are also what he believes he can use to improve an NFL team.
“I am enjoying life and everything is happening for a reason, but I am ready to go out and help an NFL team in any way I can,” Young said.
“The different things going on in my life, I know they think it is a distraction. I am more mature and older and know how to deal with it now. I am ready.”