STEVE YOUNG … NFL HALL OF FAME, 2005 … NFL QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, 1985 1999 … 7-TIME PRO BOWL SELECTION … SUPER BOWL CHAMPION, SUPER BOWL MVP, 1995 … NFL MVP 1992, 1994 You have to know when and how to go down. The key is to have a fervent desire to be in on the next play. JIM ZORN, former NFL quarterback, on the art of scrambling 102 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME My dad was the most influential person in my life because he taught me about commitment. He showed us that when we played a game, we had to take it seriously. We didn’t miss practice. We didn’t quit in the middle of a game or the middle of the year. We did not miss a single practice, a single game. Whether it was basketball, baseball, or hockey, I learned the right way to play. In 1991 I started my twenty-fourth season as a football player and only then did I think, I’m pretty good at this. Like me, you must be thinking that Steve’s being sarcastic. But is he? I never was someone who thought I was that good, and I was always trying to prove to myself I could play. I guess he’s telling us the truth.
WORKING IT OUT AND NOT CALLING IT QUITS My first really tough time in sports came in baseball. As a freshman in high school, I went an entire season without getting a hit. Not one hit. I think I ended up 0 for 46. I was embarrassed and I just wanted to hide. It was one of the first times I can remember having trouble in sports and consciously focusing on getting better, solving the problem rather than just quitting. When the season ended, my dad and I worked all summer to get my game together. I didn’t struggle again all throughout my last three years of high school. ALWAYS KNEW THERE WAS MORE TO LIFE THAN SPORTS If you know about my spiritual background (great-great grandson of Brigham Young, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), then you’d know that even as a kid, sports was not going to define my life. I was always worried that I didn’t deserve the money, or that I wasn’t living up to my or the fans’ expectations. For a while, I didn’t cash my checks during those years backing up Joe Montana because I didn’t feel like I was earning it. I never saw myself as a future pro and certainly not as a superstar. STEVE YOUNG 103 THE MOMENT When I was a freshman at BYU, it was my uncle who pulled me over and said, Steve, you could be a great quarterback. It was the first time I ever heard someone say those words to me. It made me uncomfortable to hear it, so I used to tell him to shut down on the accolades.
The next thing I knew, my college career kicked into gear and I became an All-American and runner-up for the Heisman, and was taken in the first round of the NFL draft. I was on my way. Turns out my uncle was right, and he brought it up last year when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. EXPECTATIONS AND DOUBT When I went to the L.A. Express in the USFL, they announced I was making $40 million. So here I go again, wondering if I was worth that much, and I felt challenged to see if I could play up to that kind of money. There was a pattern of putting myself in situations where there were massive expectations. I mean, I had to replace Jim McMahon at BYU after he set dozens of NCAA records, and then Joe Montana with the 49ers, having rung up four Super Bowls. Of course, I had doubts and felt pressure. But looking back, I loved the challenge. It was awesome. Through it all, I really felt like I was on my own. It was tough, but I think I’m a better person having gotten through it depending only on myself. JUDGING ME AGAINST ME It’s rare to have a supertalented athlete who has a super work ethic. In high school, I recall seeing these great athletes with no drive or dedication and I said, That won’t be me. I was on a quest to see how good I was. My quest was not to set records, but to see how good I could be. Although my approach to football worked for me, it was also a curse to have that voice in your head and never be able to turn it off. You only play once a week, and yet all you do is think about the past and look ahead at what’s next. I was a blamer for a while.
I was a guy who would say, The receiver turned the wrong way, or The sun was in my eyes. But that didn’t work, so I had to learn to put the burden on myself. After all, I was the one with the ball in my hands. 104 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME ANOTHER CHALLENGE I was bored holding a clipboard backing up Joe Montana, and I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anythingI saw my career slipping awayso I went to law school. By the time I graduated, I was named MVP twice. SOMETIMES YOU LOSE If I lost and gave everything I had, I would still have anxiety about my game, but I could live with that. That didn’t mean I was satisfied, though. If you compete you will always go up against people who are going to be better than you, and at times they’ll beat you. Even if you’re the best ever, it doesn’t mean you’ll be the best ever every time. MY WRAP Steve is a study on living up to huge expectations. He learned to look at his opponents as challenges rather than fearing failure. There are few people less impressed with Steve Young than Steve Young. He had to replace two legends in Jim McMahon and Joe Montana, and as worried as he was, he rose to the occasion. It’s that success and that effort that helped him develop into who he is today, as a person and as a broadcaster. STEVE YOUNG
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