The Real Reason for Steve Young’s Success

Steve Young once told a Salt Lake City newspaper that great quarterbacks are born, not made. This is a very perplexing comment coming from Mr. Young. You see, Steve was a great athlete coming out of high school, but he was not yet a great quarterback. In fact, he started out 8th on the quarterback depth chart at BYU. Fortunately, Steve didn’t practice like he believed that great quarterbacks were simply born. Instead, Steve worked as if his life depended on his ability to cultivate his skill. Coaches saw Steve honing his throwing ability hour after hour, on his own time at the practice facility. In addition to the time he spent on his own, Steve was fortunate enough to have the most sophisticated offensive coaching staff in the nation at his disposal. He was learning how to be a quarterback from legendary coaches like Mike Holmgren, Norm Chow, Ted Tollner, and LaVell Edwards. These coaches have left a trail of Super Bowls, National Championships, NFL MVPs, Heisman Trophy Winnners, and All-Americans along their path.

You see, it wasn’t that Steve was blessed with some type of superior genetic makeup. Rather, Steve worked extremely hard in an environment that was so successful in developing quarterbacks that it came to be known as “The Quarterback Factory.” LaVell Edwards didn’t have so much success with quarterbacks because he was a genetic expert, finding the most biologically “gifted” athletes and enticing them to come to BYU. Rather, Coach Edwards assimilated a coaching staff and developed a culture at BYU that was second to none in producing great throwers. Names like Robbie Bosco, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, and others can attest to this.

The rest of Steve Young’s career flies even more in the face of the idea that great quarterbacks are born and not made. After college, Steve Young had brief stints with both the USFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neither of these places had much success in cultivating quarterbacks, and Steve Young was no exception. His early years as a professional were underwhelming, at best, for someone who showed so much promise in college. In fact, by 1987, Young was considered a “bust” and the Buccaneers opted to draft quarterback Vinny Testaverde to replace him.

Fortunately for Steve (and for 49er fans), Bill Walsh saw promise in the struggling quarterback, and he made a trade to bring him to the 49ers. For the next three years, Steve had the opportunity to develop under the tutelage of the greatest offensive mind in the history of football, while sitting behind and learning from arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Joe Montana. By the time Steve Young became the full-time starter, he was prepared to be an elite NFL quarterback. More than a decade later, Mr. Young retired as a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. What is clearly apparent in Steve’s story though, is this- he worked extremely hard in environments that cultivated his ability. Steve Young was not always “Steve Young.” This is good news for all of us. Whatever your aspirations are, find a coach who can help you develop into the type of player you want to be, and then relentlessly work to be the best you can be.

You can do it! The choice is up to you.

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