Vince Young came from a difficult background, but through the recommendation of Texas super scout Randy Rodgers he came to the attention of Student Sports as a player to watch heading into his junior year.
Even at that stage of his young career, his Houston Madison coach Ray Seals was saying Young was the best high school QB in the state. Big words, but come Young's senior year, he would prove those words to be true.
First, though, he hit the NIKE Camp his junior year (spring of 2001) and again ran a 4.4, but also cut his shuttle time down from a 4.51 to a 4.37. His throws were clearly better and he had all the potential in the world.
In the summer of 2001, Young was invited to be a participant in the EA SPORTS Elite 11 camp held in Rancho Capistrano, Calif.
That year's group of 12 (a dozen for rooming purposes) included future college starters such as Drew Olson (UCLA), Tyler Palko (Pitt), Trent Edwards (Stanford), Troy Smith (Ohio State) and Drew Stanton (Michigan State), along with Young.
The college QBs who served as mentors were slouches either: two of them, Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer and David Carr, currently are starters in the NFL, for the Bengals and Texans, respectively.
Young didn't go unnoticed that week in July of 2001: he won the award for having the "Best Arm Strength" and coach Bob Johnson, who directed the onfield drills, said of Young, "(He) could very well be the best in the group if he stays focused on what he needs to do and has a coach who is willing to work with him. . .physically he could be the best in the country."
Heading into his senior year, Student Sports included the Texan in our list of the Hot 100 recruits to watch for. At that time we wrote:
A raw talent with tremendous athletic ability and a ton of untapped potential. Throws a nice, tight spiral with a lot of heat and a quick release. Last fall threw for 1,259 yards and 14 scores while rushing for another 802 yards and 14 touchdowns. Ran a 4.49 in the 40 at the Texas NIKE Camp. Already has over 45 scholarship offers and currently lists LSU as his favorite over Southern Mississippi, Texas and Miami."
After a stellar senior season, Young elevated his stock even further and was rated as Student Sports' No. 1 QB in the country, leaping past Edwards and also BYU-signee Ben Olson, who is now at UCLA.
When it came time after the season to bestow honors, it wasn't too difficult to determine that Young was deserving of National Player of the Year.
In our Football Final issue (Feb. 2002), here's what we wrote:
National Player of the Year Vincent Young, Madison (Houston, Texas) The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Young was arguably the nation's best prep quarterback in 2001. The Elite 11 attendee carried a team many thought would drop off this season to a 14-1 record and a berth in the Texas Class 5A Division II semifinals. His numbers were eye-popping - Young finished the season with 2,432 yards and 31 touchdowns passing and 1,735 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing. Madison scored 40 or more points in all but one game. In Young's final game, a 48-42 loss to Austin Westlake, he completed 16 of 28 passes for 382 yards and five touchdowns and rushed eight times for 82 yards and a score. During the season, Young also played in the defensive secondary in key situations, and he sealed Madison's win over 2000 5A Division II champion (and perennial powerhouse) Katy by returning an interception 68 yards for a TD. In three years as a starter, Young rolled up a whopping 8,518 combined rushing and passing yards. Young also was selected Southwest Region Player of the Year.
When it came time to pick a school, Young told us on Jan. 14, 2002: "Okay, the final six are final. I'm down to Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State, Kansas State and Southern Miss."
Young also revealed that he told other schools like Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M and several others that he wasn't interested.
"I might still look at LSU a little bit, but right now I'm really down to those six teams," he concluded.
Of course, Young would ultimately select his homestate Longhorns and ultimately put on one of the greatest shows ever seen in both the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowls, leading UT to its first national title since 1970 after accounting for 467 yards of total offense last night.
One thing is for sure; we can't say that he crept up on us unawares... Young has been wowing us ever since his sophomore year. And he still remembers those days: when a Student Sports photographer, Scott Kurtz, ran into Young after the '05 Rose Bowl, he simply said "Elite 11" to the Rose Bowl MVP and Young just laughed and nodded his head.