From the shadows

Hall of Famers Published on : 1/1/2005
He is the game’s top rated passer of all-time. He is one of just two quarterbacks in NFL history to lead the league in passing six times, and he’s the only one to do so four straight seasons. He threw more touchdown passes to the great Jerry Rice than any other quarterback. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player twice and earned MVP honors in a Super Bowl.

Steve Young
Steve is the great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young.
His name is Steve Young, who in 2005 joins the elite of the elite with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The road to greatness for Young was not a typical one; it included many curves along the way. From his start with Los Angeles Express in the ill-fated United States Football League, to two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to four seasons as a backup in San Francisco, Young finally rose from the shadows to become one of the greatest ever at his position.

"Obviously, Steve Young was one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the game,” stated his former coach George Seifert. “In fact, he may have been the greatest running and passing combination to play the position in the history of the NFL."

Young, the first left-handed quarterback to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played his college ball at Brigham Young University.

He entered the pro ranks by playing two seasons with the USFL’s Express. After that league folded, Young joined the Buccaneers who had drafted him in the first round of the NFL’s 1984 Supplemental Draft. He made 19 starts in Tampa Bay in two years. But, with the Buccaneers’ eyes set on Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde in the upcoming 1987 draft, Young was dealt to San Francisco.

Young was acquired as a safety measure for Joe Montana who had missed two months of the 1986 season with an injured back. However, over the next four seasons, Montana’s health was superb and Young frustratingly started just 10 games from 1987 to 1990.

AUDIO:Bill Walsh explains what makes Steve Young so great.

Throughout his first four seasons in the Bay area, whenever called upon, Young was willing and ready. Then, in 1991, Young stepped in as the starter after Montana was placed on injured reserve. He responded by winning the NFL’s passing crown that season. Young built upon that success in 1992 as he started all of the 49ers games at quarterback. In leading the 49ers to 14-2 mark, he completed 268 of 402 passes for 3,465 yards and threw 25 touchdowns with a mere seven interceptions for a league-leading 107.0 passer rating. Young also became the first player ever to win back-to-back passing titles with a rating of over 100. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

"Most great athletes don't learn how to play quarterback. He is the first one that I saw that conquered it,” commented former New York Giants quarterback and current broadcaster Phil Simms. “He learned how to play properly and became great at it. And when being a quarterback wasn't enough, he relied on his athletic ability."

Young offset opponents with his athletic combination of passing and running. In 1993, he posted his first 4,000-yard season as he led the 49ers to another NFC West Division title.

Steve Young
Steve Young rushed for more touchdowns than any other quarterback in league history. In all, his rushing totals read 4,239 yards on 722 attempts for a 5.8 yards average and 43 TDs.

He had a career-high 102 yards rushing against the New Orleans Saints on December 23, 1990. His longest touchdown run came on a memorable 49-yard play versus the Minnesota Vikings on October 30, 1988.

Then, in 1994, Young put the exclamation point on his career. He earned his second Most Valuable Player award when he claimed his fourth straight passing crown. Young posted an NFL record 112.8 passer rating, since surpassed by Peyton Manning in 2004, as he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and had 35 touchdown strikes. The 49ers easily won the NFC West. In the postseason, Young continued to shine as San Francisco dominated the Chicago Bears, 44-15, in the divisional playoff game. The following week, Young threw two touchdowns and rushed for one as the 49ers downed the Dallas Cowboys, 38-28, in the NFC championship game to earn a berth in Super Bowl XXIX.

In perhaps one of the finest Super Bowl performances ever, Young passed for a record six touchdowns. In all, he threw for 325 yards and also had a game-high 49 yards rushing. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player as San Francisco crushed the San Diego Chargers, 49-26.

The 49ers remained one of the NFL’s elite teams and the success also continued for Young. He added two more passing titles to his résumé. His sixth title came in 1997 to tie the legendary Sammy Baugh as the only players in NFL history to win six league passing titles.  The following season, he established career highs when he passed for 4,170 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Young started the first three games of the 1999 season before a concussion suffered in a game against the Arizona Cardinals shelved him for the remainder of the regular season.

One month prior to the 49ers’ training camp in 2000, the seven-time Pro Bowler held a press conference at team headquarters to announce his retirement from the game.

“For the record, I can still play,” he shared. “But, I was able to step away and not worry about the immediate circumstances. I made all the arguments with myself. And, I do this with really a lot of joy and with the thought of looking forward.”

Five years into his retirement, Young now reaches the pinnacle of his pro football career as he receives his sport’s highest honor – induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Other features on the Class of 2005
 Fritz Pollard - "Pioneer"
 Dan Marino - "35 miles"
Benny Friedman - "Headliner"