BYU retires Steve Young jersey

Updated: August 28, 2003, 11:46 PM ET

PROVO, Utah -- More than 20 years after Steve Young walked on the Brigham Young campus as an unknown longshot to make the football team, the school honored one of its greatest quarterbacks ever by retiring his jersey.

Young returned to BYU for the rare honor during a halftime ceremony of the Cougars' season opener against Georgia Tech on Thursday night at the school named for his great-great-great grandfather.

"This is the place that I became the man that I am today. With all due respect to my great-great-great grandfather, this is the place for me," Young said to the cheering crowd.

BYU has retired only two football numbers in its history and hadn't retired a jersey until Young's. They symbolic honor keeps the number alive for the team, but Young will forever be remembered with the No. 8 banner unveiled during Thursday's ceremony and will hang from the press box at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Edwards, the former Cougar coach who brought Young to Provo, appeared in a video message to Young, who was on the field with his family to receive a framed blue No. 8 Cougar jersey.

Before the game, Young remembered arriving before training camp and seeing his name listed at No. 8 among the quarterbacks. An option quarterback in high school, Young admitted he didn't know how to throw well and hardly fit the BYU profile.

"I convinced LaVell that I was a good LDS kid and needed a shot. He did, but he never took me serious as a quarterback," Young said.

Young said Edwards wanted to use his speed in the defensive secondary, but Young continued to work on his throwing skills. Playing on the scout team and alongside former teammate Jim McMahon, Young said he developed the throwing ability that made him one of the best at both BYU and in the NFL.

"Sitting here after all these years, it's a really neat thing. To play 18 years as a pro and have a great college career, it's awesome," Young said.

Young was the 1983 Heisman Trophy runner-up as a senior, leading the nation in passing yards (3,802), total offense (4,246) and touchdowns (33). Young went on to the USFL, then the NFL for a short stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1987 and won three Super Bowl titles, including one as the starter. He was twice voted the league MVP.

BYU has retired only two football numbers -- Eldon Fortie's No. 40 and Marion Probert's No. 81. Fortie was killed in a 1965 plane crash and Probert was the Cougars' first All-American. Banners honoring Probert, who played from 1951-54, and Fortie (1960-62) will be hung at the stadium later during the season.

Last winter, the school honored former basketball star Danny Ainge by retiring his No. 22 jersey.

"BYU I think had a philosophy of nameless, faceless athletes for the greater good of BYU which is fine. We all did our thing and we're grateful for it," Young said. "I think it's really important and I think it's been missing for a long time that BYU build a legacy -- a sense of history -- for recruiting, for fans, just for anybody that's interested in the school."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index