Mac Engel

Vince Young a case study of what can happen to can’t-miss NFL QB

In August 2012, then Buffalo Bills quarterback Vince Young throws a pass in a preseason game.
In August 2012, then Buffalo Bills quarterback Vince Young throws a pass in a preseason game. AP

At some point in the next 48 hours, all of these drafted rookie quarterbacks who just held up their new NFL team’s jersey should Google Vince Young. This is what comes up: “Young resurrects career in Canadian Football League.”

It can happen.

As the new crop of “next great quarterbacks” enters the NFL, the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft and Pro Bowler worked out at a minicamp in Vero Beach, Fla., with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.

Assuming he makes the team, he will likely begin as the backup to Kevin Glenn, who is 37 and played collegiately at Illinois State.

There are two ways to look at Vince in his attempt to play another game — sad, or admirable. In this case it is both.

“I just wanted to play a football game,” Vince told me in a phone interview this week. “I wanted to finish my career how I wanted because of the perception the NFL had of me. I am blessed (Roughriders) coach Chris Jones gave me this chance. I just want to work and to compete for the Grey Cup.”

Show of hands who ever thought Vince Young would say, “I just want to compete for a Grey Cup”?

If football after UT is going to work for VY, it needs to be the CFL. He will turn 34 in May. This is his final chance.

VY insists this is not a glorified tryout for the NFL, which it should not be. The NFL doesn’t care about VY, even if his website, “10vinceyoung.com” says, “Official website of NFL quarterback Vince Young.”

To the NFL, he’s just another highly drafted quarterback who missed.

He played for the Titans, Eagles, and never made it out of preseason for the Bills, Packers and, yes, the eternally quarterback-less Browns. VY’s last NFL regular season snap came in 2011.

To his credit, not many former NFL players who “had it all” can take the Canadian route in hopes to win the Grey Cup. Such quests are usually beneath the guys whose previous mission was the Lombardi Trophy.

For the man eternally known as VY to want a Grey Cup in the nine-team CFL is just another detail to the most fascinating sports figure from Texas this century.

It’s appropriate that Young’s new agent is Leigh Steinberg, a man who was the inspiration for “Jerry Maguire” and was at the top of his profession before he fell to the bottom and slowly remade a career. Steinberg is the agent who represents Patrick Mahomes, who was just taken No. 10 by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Steinberg worked out a nonguaranteed one-year deal with a team option for a second year for Young. If Vince is on the team, he makes $120,000. That does not include the $15,000 he would receive for housing in Regina, Saskatchewan. It does not include the potentially $71,000 in incentives. If Vince is the No. 2 QB, he makes an additional $500 per game.

Making $200K a year to play football is a good life, but ... the NFL minimum for a four-year veteran in 2017 will be $775,000. Had VY remained in the NFL, he would be making well over $1 million. Figure closer to $7 million.

Alas, crazy NFL money was simply not meant to be for VY.

The five-year deal Young signed as a rookie that included a guaranteed $25.74 million is long gone. So too is the money from the deal he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I was just immature business-wise and trusting the wrong people,” he said. “It was a distraction off the field.”

VY was surrounded by the typical cast of sycophantic enablers, and drains, that helped him blow his money. He reportedly blew through $5K a week at The Cheesecake Factory, as stated when he filed for bankruptcy.

It didn’t help he clashed with his first NFL coach, Jeff Fisher, who never wanted Vince.

Young eventually figured out playing the part of good soldier, but didn’t help himself after he left Tennessee and signed with Philly and coach Andy Reid. Young never developed into an accurate passer, which is what ultimately killed his NFL career.

Having earned his degree from UT, Vince was settled in Austin working for his alma mater and The Longhorn Network. He was making about $100,000 and had a good life, but he embodied the guy who simply could not let it go.

When in January 2016 he was arrested for DWI in Austin and sentenced to 18 months’ probation, it was just a sad mug shot of another guy who had it all and blew it.

That is why when Canada called, he didn’t pull a Vince and big-time the NFL’s minor league. He chatted with his agent, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon, whose career began in in the CFL, about this adjustment.

There is something admirable about this; about a guy who is just trying to play before he no longer can. It’s atypical of a young man who often acted as if he was still the biggest, baddest dude on Sixth Street and Congress.

Now he is trying to extend a football career on the wide and long fields of the CFL. In a home stadium that tops out at 34,000. In a town of 236,000 that sits between Winnipeg and Calgary. In a country where football is far behind hockey.

For VY, it beats not playing.

“I had the complete support of my family and it was just about getting my butt off the couch,” he said.

VY says he entered camp at about 255 pounds and is now down to 245, with the goal of hitting 238.

“It’s all been great,” he said. “It’s always good to be playing the game that you really love.”

Maybe in a year or two when we Google Vince Young the next words are “Grey Cup Champion.”

It can happen.

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