a collegiate career as the signal caller at Brigham
Young University, Steve Young was projected to be the
first overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft. USFL
teams, not expecting that Young would sign with the
upstart league, by and large passed him by in their
draft's first round.
Then with the 10th overall pick, the Los Angeles Express
and their new owner, J. William Oldenburg, took the
plunge. Young had no intention of signing with the
Express, but Oldenburg, the man they called "Mr.
Dynamite," would stop at nothing to lure Young to
Los Angeles. He signed a number of Young's BYU
teammates, building an offensive line that was
considered by many the best in the game - NFL or USFL.
In the end, Young did sign with the Express thanks to
the largest contract ever offered to anyone in the
history of pro football at the time - four years, for a
reported $40 million. While the dollar figure was
a misnomer - most of the $40 million was in the form of
an annuity to be paid out over decades - it was enough
to get Young to sign the line, and to get him on board
there, Young regretted signing. The Express,
despite a maiden 1983 season that saw the team go
8-10-0, were an unmitigated disaster. Though
talented on the field with teammates the likes of JoJo
Townsell, Mel Gray and Kevin Nelson, off the field the
team drew more flies than paying fans to the cavernous
Los Angeles Coliseum, and within a year "Mr.
Dynamite" would be gone as well, surrendering the
team back to the league while undergoing financial
problems. The league's control of the team in 1985
led to, among other things, Young playing a game for the
Express at fullback - the team's starters injured, the
league refused to authorize the signing of
replacements. Despite his best efforts, Young's
Express in 1985 were an abysmal 3-15-0, and much to his
relief, after the season he was released to pursue a
career in the NFL.
Young's two seasons with the Express was a learning
experience that would serve him well in the NFL, where
after two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a
four-year apprenticeship as Joe Montana's back-up in San
Francisco, he would take the reins of a perennial
contender. He would go on to play in eight NFC
championship games during the course of his 49'ers
career, earning three Super Bowl rings (after the
1988-89 seasons as Montana's back-up, and again after
the 1994 season as Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl
XXIX) before retiring in 1997.
Young's 32,610 passing yards and 209 touchdowns in the
pros was enough to merit his induction into the Pro
Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and today he's active
both on the public speaking circuit as well as with his
Forever Young Foundation, a charitable group he founded
that aids youth organizations.
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