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Vince Young thinks he can still be an impact quarterback. Now, after a six-year layoff, comes the chance for the 33-year-old to prove it or not as an exported quarterback in Canada.
“I feel like a young 33 because I’ve still got my legs,” Young told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday after signing with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Young, who had no takers on the NFL market and has not been on an active roster since 2011, landed a one-year deal with a one-year team option. Other terms were undisclosed. The deal with the Roughriders was prompted by a call last month from Roughriders coach Chris Jones after Young made it known that he wanted to play again.
“I still have the fire,” insists Young. “I know how much confidence I have in myself and how hard I have to work to make it successful.”
Young, drafted No. 3 overall in 2006 after leading Texas to a thrilling Rose Bowl victory that secured college football’s national championship, was once regarded as one the NFL’s most promising young quarterbacks. As a rookie, he led the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs and won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He earned two Pro Bowl selections.
Yet he tumbled fast, too, with the fallout of a six-year NFL career including off-the-field drama and a rift with then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
Why did he flop in the NFL?
“I don’t think it was about playing football,” Young said. “It was off-the-field stuff. Definitely, some immaturity on my side. I don’t dwell on it now. I made my mistakes and I learn from them.”
Young said he’s eager to compete for the starting job, and sounds even more driven to prove any doubters wrong. He ramped up his conditioning and throwing in January.
“I’m pretty much used to the doubters,” Young said. “It’s been that way ever since I started playing football. So basically, I’ll use it as motivation.”
It seemed ironic that Young was introduced in Canada on the same day the NFL’s new year was christened with the start of free agency. He wouldn’t declare any mission to use Canada as a stepping stone to an NFL return, but he clearly realizes the landscape. There’s a dearth of quarterback talent in the NFL. If he’s successful in Canada, an NFL team would have little to lose by giving him a shot.
And hey, it pays. Young chuckled when Mike Glennon and Kirk Cousins were mentioned as examples of quarterbacks who have struck it big on the market. Glennon will get about $15 million per year from the Chicago Bears after serving as Jameis Winston’s backup in Tampa Bay; Cousins is franchise-tagged again by Washington, poised to run the tab to $44 million for the tags from last year and this year.
“It’s tough to play this position,” Young said. “It’s not easy, whether you’re in the CFL or the NFL.”
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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