Vince Young remains one of the great what-ifs in recent NFL history. Blessed with physical gifts unlike any quarterback in the league, he nonetheless found trouble at every turn in the NFL. Financial problems, clashes with coaches, inconsistent play … all of it combined to result in a crumbled career that fell far short of its potential.
Young spent the first half of this year attempting a comeback in the CFL; that experiment ended in a season-ending injury. But in a revealing new Sports Illustrated article, Young comes clean — or, more properly, absolutely unloads a couple dumpsters — about his days in Tennessee and his relationship with ex-Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
The entire article’s worth a read, but here are a couple highlights:
• The Titans had a choice of Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler. While scouts projected Young as the third-ranked of the three, team owner Bud Adams prevailed, forcing the team to pick Young.
• During Young’s rookie year, he ran late to catch a team plane, in part because he says he was caught behind a funeral procession. Fisher didn’t hold up the plane, which left without Young aboard. “I feel like Fisher did that s— on purpose,” he says. “I’m pulling in, seeing them pull the door down. I can hear the team yelling.”
• Finally, Young claims that Fisher didn’t stand up for him when Young was suspected of being suicidal and set off a manhunt in Nashville before sitting down in the Titans facility. “I’m like, Dude, quit talking to me! And I’m looking at Fisher like, You can stop all this, all the suicidal talk. He’s sitting there, saying nothing. I feel like he was just laughing at that s—. The [TV] cameraman hiding in the woods—it all felt like a big setup. And now I gotta walk through the airport as the Suicidal Guy for the rest of my life.”
On the flip side, of course, Young was at times surly and unwilling to be a good team player, noting that he had “the owner’s phone number” and didn’t need to be concerned with the travails of lesser players. Now? Now, he’s regretting the turns his life took, and he’s hoping his best days aren’t behind him. “Maybe I’ll play football again,” he said. “You never know.”
The entire article is a fascinating look at how fame and fortune can unravel a man. “He most wanted for people to see him and his NFL career the way that he sees them,” writer Greg Bishop noted in the article. “He had spent the first half of his life becoming famous and the second half wrestling with the consequences of that fame. He longed to be respected for his accomplishments, given the due he earned. He hated how his name had been used as a punch line, his career forgotten in some places. And he appeared so vulnerable in those moments, so human, wishing for what we all wish for—recognition, appreciation, reverence.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.