Vince Young: Maybe That Hall of Fame Talk Wasn't So Crazy After All
Remember when Vince Young knocked off USC in the 2005 Rose Bowl?
For the next few months leading up to the draft, the talk of the football nation was that of Young and his heroics.
How regardless of his out-of-the-pocket centered game, just knew how to win, whether it came via his powerful arm or explosive legs.
He was a flat out gamer.
He didn't need to score well on the wonderlic, I mean, did you see him at the combine?
At 6'5", 230 lbs., the guy is an absolute genetic freak with breathtaking talent on the field.
Young went on to shine in his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans, going 8-5 as a starter and earning the offensive rookie of the year award along with a Pro Bowl appearance.
Come 2007, Young was able to improve his completion percentage from 51.5 to 62.3 percent and get the Titans into the playoffs, even with his 17 interceptions during the regular season.
Flash forward to the start of the 2008 season.
It was supposed to be a huge year for Young, the springboard for a storied career after two years of adjusting to pro football and learning the game.
But during a season-opening win against Jacksonville, Young was forced out of the game due to a leg injury.
Speculation erupted that he had refused to re-enter the game after throwing a fourth quarter interception, and he was booed by the home crowd before Kerry Collins came in to finish the game.
The next evening he famously went "missing" from his home in Nashville and rumors spread of his possible mental instability.
This, with good reason, turned suspicions of his future in the NFL turned sour and many wrote him off as not being able to handle the atmosphere of pro football.
In 2009, young made matters worse when he added the quality of being excessively cocky to his resume,
He was quoted in Esquire magazine back in August saying, "I don't know when I'll start again. But I will be the next black quarterback to win the Super Bowl. And I will be in the Hall of Fame."
The release of the quotes brought a total turnaround to the perception held on draft day, when he was the future dual-threat quarterback of the NFL.
Young's persona had morphed so drastically that the media viewed him as a crazy, arrogant, and a mentally fragile young quarterback.
But even before that incident, what is far too easily forgotten is the impact that Steve McNair's death had on the youngster.
McNair was a mentor to the developing quarterback, and his game was beginning to take shape and be modeled around that of Air McNair.
That's what stirred his comments in the postseason.
With the recent death of his good friend, Young was eager to prove that he had learned from McNair and wanted to prove it on the field.
His yearning to change his image was so great that he blurted out the hall of fame comments.
The thing is, Young wasn't exaggerating in his mind.
To me, there's no doubt that he fully expects to be in the hall of fame at the end of his career.
Young got the message, unfortunately disguised in the horrific tragedy of McNair's passing, that life is too short to be dramatic.
It's too short to worry about throwing an interception.
It's too short to worry about getting booed.
So on the heels of the Titans pitiful 0-6 start, capped off by a 59-0 drubbing during a blizzard in Foxboro, Young finally got his chance at redemption on the field.
He got the opportunity to use the tools given to him by McNair and turn them into on-field success by rallying the Titans to a four-game winning streak and catapulting them back into the wild card race.
During the Titans' four-game winning streak, it's clear that Young sees the field much better than in the past and is playing with far more structure to his game.
Aided by the league's leading rusher, Chris Johnson, the Titans have far too much speed in the backfield for any team to contain on a regular basis.
It's absolutely flooring that they have been able to effectively run a college-style option play against NFL defenses and be successful, and that's a testament to the offensive weaponry Jeff Fishes possesses.
Last night's game-winning drive in the fourth quarter brought Young's career record as a starting quarterback to 22-11.
All of sudden, he's that winner again.
That unstoppable athlete with the size of a quarterback and speed of a running back.
That gamer that no matter what you throw at him, always bounces back stronger than ever.
And if the Titans keep up this run, Vince Young's preseason talk isn't going to be sounding so laughable after all.
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