Who is Steve Young?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Steve Young, a descendent (great-great-great grandson) of Mormon leader Brigham Young, is an award winning quarterback and arguably one of the best to ever play the game of football. His superior athleticism won him a place in 2005 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his thirteen years as a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers certainly won him a place of honor in many 49ers fans’ hearts. His success as a quarterback, especially with the overall strength of the 49er team from 1987-1999, led him to three Super Bowls. Of these he won the first he played as a starting quarterback, Super Bowl XXIX and was named Most Valuable Player.

Steve Young spent several seasons as the backup to Joe Montana.
Steve Young spent several seasons as the backup to Joe Montana.

Born in Utah in 1961, Steve Young and his family relocated to Connecticut in his youth. Young had impressive performances at Greenwich High School, academically and athletically. He became the starting quarterback in his junior year, and he also co-captained the basketball and baseball teams. He graduated from high school with a 4.0, on top of his sterling participation in sports, and his strong commitment to the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church. He attended religion classes every morning before school and athletic practice began.

It seemed natural that Steve Young would attend Brigham Young University, though his athleticism certainly meant other colleges sought him out. His work at BYU was so impressive that he also earned a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. After college, Young signed with the new United States Football League, in 1984. Unfortunately the league was doomed to failure, and he only played two seasons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, part of the National Football League (NFL) scooped Young up in 1985, but the team had a horrible season, winning only two of sixteen games. Young’s performance didn’t help. He only had a 55% pass completion record and his interception to touchdown ratio was 2-1. He was traded in 1987 to the San Francisco 49ers to serve as backup to quarterback Joe Montana, and it appeared his career might be uneventful.

Montana’s injuries in 1987, and 1988, did mean Steve Young had opportunities to sub in as quarterback, and when he had the opportunity to play, he used it well. In 1987, Young led the team to a 41-zip victory over the Chicago Bears, and he proved equally useful in a 1988 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Another Montana injury in 1990 made Young the default starting quarterback for the entire 1991 season. Though he got off to a rough start, he finished the season with a record scoring passing rating. Yet there were still doubts about his ability to start and lead the team, especially since his backup Steve Bono had done so well in the first five games.

Young even got close to being traded in 1992, since it was thought Montana might be well enough to start again. Instead, recovery was slow for Montana, and Young become the starting quarterback, getting the 49ers to the playoffs. Montana was traded, in a move many 49er fans truly despised, to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, leaving Young as the starter. In 1995, Young made very good on his early promise, taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl and winning.

Though Steve Young set other records, many consider 1995 to be his most successful year. The 49ers didn’t make it to another Super Bowl under Young’s lead, and in 1999 Young retired. Still, though his final years at the 49ers were not winning years, his record as a quarterback is amazing. His career passer rating is still the highest ever, though Peyton Manning may catch him eventually, and his career pass completion percentage 64.3% is the third highest. He is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game, though people argue over where he should be ranked.

After retirement, Steve Young completed his J.D. degree, worked as a spokesman for Toyota®, and now works as a sports analyst for ESPN. He married in 2000, and has three children with his wife, Barbara Graham.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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