- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Vince Young was released by the Buffalo Bills in August, he received a surprise from Texas coach Mack Brown.
Brown sent him a DVD of Texas’ 2006 Rose Bowl national title game victory over USC. Odd thing to send Young after he’d just lost his job, right? Brown hoped Young got the message.
“I wanted to see how good he’d played and how good he was. I wanted him to remember that,” Brown said. “When he was here and he was struggling, we showed him high school video. We showed some clips of plays that he’d made as a freshman, and he didn’t lose another game.
“He’s a guy that just needs somebody to buy into him and trust him. He is that good.”
Of all the folks who are still in Young’s corner, few are more vocal than Brown. The Texas coach has kept in close contact with his former star quarterback ever since Young left Austin in 2006.
He’s remained a constant presence through the ups and the downs. In an exclusive interview with HornsNation, Brown shared his thoughts on Young’s work toward an NFL comeback and what he believes the Longhorns legend can still achieve: a Super Bowl victory and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
HornsNation: You brought Vince Young back to campus in October as an honorary captain for Texas’ game against West Virginia. What did you learn from that reunion?
Mack Brown: He’s really upbeat. I think he’s at a great place. He’s got some of the personal issues behind him with the financial situation and he’s really excited about getting back with a team and playing. It had to be very distracting when all of that stuff was popping up around him.
I feel like he’s at a great place. He’s working out every day and he’s just sitting there waiting on a call. He says, ‘I don’t care if I’m a starter, I don’t care if I’m a second-teamer, I just want to help a team win.’ I really believe that. I think he was in as good a place as I’ve ever seen him while he was here.
HN: What did you take away from where Young is at in his life right now?
Brown: He’s married. He and his wife Candice get along great. He’s got little Jordan, who he loves dearly as a son. I think his life is in a great place. He’s understanding that there’s some things that were out of his control that he just didn’t understand. He’s understanding that, like all of us, if he had to do it over with he would’ve done some things differently.
But he also understands that money is not going to rule his life. He wants to be a good father, wants to be a good husband and wants to be a pro quarterback. He’s sure not ready to give up yet.
HN: Young has spent two weeks this fall working with quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. to get his game back on track. Do you find it encouraging that he’s not afraid to ask for help?
Brown: I think it just shows the state I felt like he was in here. He’s just wanting to get back to work. He’s wanting to go back and do the thing he loves, and that’s lead a football team and help some team win. Sometimes when it’s taken away from you, you realize that you love the game so much more than you even thought you did. And I really still am standing by my thoughts that he’ll still go win a Super Bowl for somebody and I think he still ends up in the NFL Hall of Fame before it’s over. He just needs a chance. That’s basically the message he gave me. He said, ‘Coach, I’ll get another chance. I’m not going to mess it up. I’m going to be great, and I’m going to help some team win.’
HN: Young is 29 now. Did you get sense he sees his next opportunity as being his biggest or most important one yet?
Brown: No, I think he’s not at that point yet. But he does want another opportunity, and he’s going to make it count when he gets there.
HN: Young’s off-field problems had a lot to do with the people he’s trusted over the years. Do you see him surrounding himself with better people these days?
Brown: Yes. I think Vince started over in his life. He will obviously keep people that he loves close to him, but I think he’ll be much more protective of himself and his family and his finances in the future. He’ll take a more personal interest in all of those things.
HN: What do you think has been missing from his game the past few years? Why hasn’t his NFL career been what all you and Texas fans expected?
Brown: I think confidence. I think he needs somebody to trust him. Vince is a person that if he trusts you, he will give everything he’s got with his ability and every ounce of energy and everything he’s got, like he did for us to win a national championship. And we never had one problem with him. He was upbeat, he was a leader, he was a good representative of our school. He needs one class to graduate and he’ll do that when he comes back [this spring].
I watch pro ball all the time. He’s a guy that’s a better player than some of the quarterbacks who are out there now. I just can’t wait for him to find the right place for him, with a coach and owner that trust him, and move forward. I think he’s in a much better place right now than he’s ever been to lead a team.
HN: What makes you so confident Young can win a Super Bowl and still become a Hall of Famer?
Brown: Because I’ve seen him do it. When he’s at the top of his game, nobody is better. Right now, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more determined. I think it’s a great time in his life, a great place. He’s more mature. It’s not about people around him, it’s not about money. Right now it’s about his family and winning, and all the other things are unimportant.