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Walk with me a mile in Vince Young’s shoes. It’ll be good for both of us – help us appreciate this 27-year-old’s enigmatic behavior, if not quite understand it.
Vince, you remember, finished his career at Texas as one of the most celebrated individuals in the history of college sports. He exited Austin for a surefire top-10 draft pick and massive paycheck coming off what many agree is the most spectacular performance in football annals.
Here’s the thing: for Vince Young, this was all par for the course – all part of the grand plan. All little stepping stones to fulfilling his destiny.
To being the greatest.
When Vince was 6 – still a little man, but faster than a speeding bullet on two wheels – the future Madison High star crashed his bicycle into a moving van. Metal and asphalt carved out his intestines. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. He spent the next year in the hospital.
Vince said years after the fact that the near-fatal accident shaped the rest of his life – taught him to be humble and thank God for each day. But it also showed him, whether he consciously realized or not, that he was a superman. He could come back from anything. He was created for great things. Not even a bout with death could derail his bright future.
For the next 15 years of his life, everybody told Vince Young, in more words or less, that he was The Man. That he could not be stopped. That he was the best.
He didn’t hear a word of criticism because no critic had solid ground on which to stand. Vince was the best – Big 12 Player of the Year, Rose Bowl MVP, Maxwell and O’Brien recipient, runner-up to a vacated Heisman trophy. His No. 10 hangs proudly in Texas Memorial Stadium.
Of course, things changed when he got to the NFL, but not enough to obscure the fact that Vince Young is one hell of a football player. Faulty mechanics and an average arm didn’t get in the way of what he did best: win baby.
Entering this season, Vince had compiled a 26-13 record as a starter, made the Pro Bowl twice, and as of Sunday, a game in which he was pulled after completing 12 of 16 passes for 165 yards and no interceptions, ranked fifth in the league in passer rating – this after landing the Sporting News comeback player of the year in ’09 for nearly leading a winless Titans team to the playoffs.
For one reason or another, head coach Jeff Fisher, a star in his own right, has rarely been in his quarterback’s corner. Citing lack of work ethic, he’s instead steadfastly backed Vince’s competition, whether grizzled journeymen like Kerry Collins or untested newcomers like Rusty Smith.
Fisher was so anti-Vince just 12 months ago that it took a call from the owner’s box just to get him a shot at reclaiming his starting job for a DOA team. After a 59-0 loss to New England dropped Tennessee to 0-6, Fisher told the media of the Bud Adams-induced QB swap, “It’s a reflection of the team play. I’m still in [Kerry Collins'] corner, but we’ve decided to go ahead and make this change.”
And with that rousing vote of confidence, Vince proceeded to lead the worst team in the league to an 8-2 record, sweeping under the rug a scary occurrence the year before in which he was presumed suicidal after leaving home without his cell.
On Sunday, Vince stormed out on his coaches and his teammates after a third-quarter benching, part the doing of Fisher, part of a gimpy thumb. He won’t play football again for a long time, and when he finally does, probably not for the team that drafted him.
I’d be pissed, too.
Vince Young isn’t a bad guy. Bad guys don’t take Steve McNair’s kids to father-son breakfasts. Bad guys don’t date their high school sweethearts or go back to school after inking many-million dollar contracts.
Everybody’s insisting now Vince is mentally unstable – that he’s a nut, a whackjob, a headcase. Maybe he is. Or maybe he’s just now realizing that he’ll never live the life he was born to live. And that’s gotta hurt like hell.