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What the 2006 Rose Bowl means to Texas legend Vince Young

The best quarterback in program history pens piece for Sports Illustrated on the big night 10 years ago.

Vince in Confetti

It’s been more than 10 years since former Texas Longhorns quarterback Vince Young ran into the corner of the end zone against USC, but it’s still the first thing people want to talk about when they meet him.

Young says as much in a new piece for Sports Illustrated. The 2006 Rose Bowl defined his football career, as his ‘Horns beat a team many had called the greatest in college football history in the national championship game. How do you top that?

The memories will never get old for Vince Young, but he goes back even further in his SI piece:

In many ways, my playing for UT was probably a foregone conclusion. My high school coach impressed upon me early on the notion that playing football could serve a greater purpose. He taught me that how you carry yourself on and off the field can have a huge impact upon the community, and coming from Houston, that meant a lot to me.

When most of the other highly touted players were leaving for Miami, LSU and Arkansas, my goal was to stay home. Texas didn’t heavily recruit me until my senior year, but my mind was pretty much already made up. I knew that if I could be a part of something bigger — back then, Texas schools didn’t get the same kind of national recognition as other big programs — I would have a chance to help make history in our state. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. Those guys are gods in Texas, and I was set on making my mark; on being remembered like they were.

Football is about family for Young, violent as it may be. The players and teams are embedded in the larger community from the Pop Warner level on up. And nowhere is the family aspect of football greater than at Texas.

Even with the rise of other college programs around the state, there’s still an aura and richness about the burnt orange and white.

The enormous football culture also helps prepare you for pressure. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that goes for expectations, too. Luckily for me, I dealt with them from the very beginning — both good and bad. Growing up, I was bigger and faster than other kids, and that led to unexpected consequences. I had to bring my birth certificate with me to games to prove I wasn’t gaming the system. On the flip side, having so many people watch me (and quite a few doubt me) at a young age prepared me for what was to come when I attended UT years later.

Young says he never felt any added pressure as a Longhorn because he had to exceed expectations before arriving on campus. He never listened to the haters who said he was just a running quarterback, using them as extra motivation to perform.

Making matters worse were the whispers coming from some fans and members of the media. These guys are too soft. The Longhorns just can’t finish. Coach Mack Brown and his strength and conditioning staff need to go. That stuff had been floating around long before I came to UT, but it persisted nonetheless.

Make no mistake: We heard everything that was said. That’s why the team’s leadership — myself along with defensive end Rodrique Wright, safety Michael Huff, running back Selvin Young and guard Kasey Studdard — took it upon ourselves impress upon our teammates how serious we needed to be about the upcoming season.

The team was serious enough to go undefeated during that 2005 season, culminating in the big game, and then the big play, against USC. Young says he was far from cocky about that fateful touchdown run. The biggest thought racing through his mind was “Make Sure You Don’t Drop This Snap.”

It’s been 10 years since that game, and five since he last played, but Young stays involved as much as possible in the local community in his position as the development officer in the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement.

He’s a legend at Texas, and when people ask how the team is going to do this year, he answers with one word.

“Undefeated.”