Steve Young is a very accomplished athlete who has extended his relevance in the game football by making a career out of being a popular on air television personality for the ESPN network. While a younger generation of football fans may be most familiar with Young for his current work as a commentator on ESPN Monday Night Football post game shows fans old enough to remember his playing days know that he was truly something special on the gridiron. Long before Steve Young became a Super Bowl MVP in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL he was a prominent player for the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars and later a poster boy for the upstart USFL spearheaded by Donald Trump to compete with the NFL.
After being dubbed a high school athletic prodigy out of Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut Steve Young, a three sport star in high school (football, basketball, and baseball), moved across the country to continue his football career at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. Young who was initially considered a run first and throw second type of quarterback worked hard to overcome his shortcomings at passing the ball. Young, who played quarterback for an option run style offense in high school, eventually made his weakness his strength to the point that by his senior season he set an NCAA single season record by completing 71.3% of his throws.
The First Team All-American quarterback at BYU led an explosive offense that thanks to efficient quarterback play established a new NCAA record for total offense as the squad averaged 584.2 yards per game while racking up an 11-1 record. Despite finishing second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy to running back Mike Rozier of Nebraska Steve Young did receive other noteworthy accolades including the Davey O’Brien Award given annually to the best quarterback. Young completed his college career in style by tossing the game winning touchdown in a Holiday Bowl win against the University of Missouri in 1983. The pass that gave BYU the 21-17 win was the tail end of a trick flea flicker play. Young would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
The upstart USFL (United States Football League) was just getting off the ground when Young was prepared to turn pro in 1984. While the established NFL still seemed like the direction the game would head for the long term the USFL was successfully picking off star players to join their league and Steve Young was amongst the young talent that was lured by lucrative contracts to suit up for the less established brand. Young signed what was at the time considered an extremely lucrative deal in the form of a $40 million annuity contract in exchange for agreeing to play for the Los Angeles Express for ten years.
The career Steve Young had in the USFL was shorter than scheduled as a result of the owner of the team he played for going bankrupt in Young’s second season. Financial debacles caused embarrassing lapses in the integrity of the league including bus drivers refusing to drive teams to games after paychecks bounced and players simply not showing up. Interestingly, due to the structure of the original contract that Steve Young agreed to he is still being paid from that original contract and will continue to be every year through 2027. Due to the annuity nature of the original $40 million contract Young was scheduled to be paid $1 million a year for 40 years. Even though the now defunct league officially shut down in 1986 litigation proved successful in eventually guaranteeing that Young be paid the annuity value he was promised.
Steve Young would go on to sign with an abysmal Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in the NFL and suffer a 3-16 record as a starter over two seasons before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers were he was mentored by the great Joe Montana while serving as his backup. Young went on to have a prolific NFL career despite wasted time in the USFL and with the Buccaneers. Looking back on the NFL success of Steve Young the two-time MVP who has the record for highest passing rating to go along with a Super Bowl ring is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the history of the game. In 2005 Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.