Texas quarterback declares for draft

Updated: January 9, 2006, 2:02 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

AUSTIN, Texas -- Vince Young is headed to the NFL.

The quarterback who led Texas to its first national championship in 36 years announced Sunday he would make himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Vince Young
Harry How/Getty ImagesYoung hopes he can duplicate his collegiate success at the professional level.

"I thank God for the opportunity to be in this position," Young said at a news conference. "Hard work has paid off a whole lot."

Young, who led the Longhorns to a 41-38 Rose Bowl win over top-ranked Southern California on Wednesday, could have returned to Texas for his senior season and would have been a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

The versatile quarterback accounted for 467 yards against USC -- 200 running and 267 passing -- and ran 8 yards for the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left.

Young thanked many people, including his family and coach Mack Brown, who was at the American Football Coaches Association Convention and could not attend Sunday's news conference. He specifically thanked Brown for "helping me become a better man."

In a statement, Brown said he met with Young and his family Sunday morning and fully supports Young's decision.

"We love Vince and appreciate all the great things he's done for the University of Texas on and off the field," Brown said. "We'll miss him, but want him to do as well in the NFL as he did in college."

In his eight seasons at Texas, Brown never before has had a player leave early for the NFL.

Young ends his career at Texas with a 30-2 record -- the best in school history.

His stellar performance in the Rose Bowl increased speculation that he would leave school early and also started a debate about whether he would be the No. 1 pick in April's draft.

Young's hometown Houston Texans have the first pick. Young said it would be wonderful to play in Houston, but realizes he could wind up somewhere else.

Team and league sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Houston Texans will pass on Young, a Houston native, and select USC running back Reggie Bush with the No. 1 pick in the draft, pending the formality of Bush announcing that he will turn pro.

Almost nothing will change that course, the sources told Mortensen.

The Texans will pick up an $8 million option on quarterback David Carr, who was the expansion team's first draft pick four years ago. Texans owner Bob McNair made the decision after getting extensive evaluations from various sources that strongly endorsed Carr, including a favorable report from Dan Reeves, the former longtime NFL coach hired last month as a consultant.

USC's Matt Leinart, who could have been the first pick a year ago had he turned pro after his junior season, still remains the consensus top quarterback in the NFL draft. For Leinart, he is likely to be the choice of the New Orleans Saints at No. 2 with Young projected to the Tennessee Titans at No. 3.

Steve McNair, who has been mentoring Young, including a visit to watch the Rose Bowl, will be lobbying the Titans to select Young with the third pick, Mortensen reported. Of course, McNair has to re-sign with the Titans for that to happen.

Young said during the season he intended to return for a final season, but that his Rose Bowl performance "put me over the top."

Young talked over his decision with his family and said some of his advisers told him to stay at Texas to finish his degree. Considering the deadline for declaring for the draft is Jan. 15, it was clear his mind was already made up. The ultimate decision was his, Young said.

"It took a lot of praying, listening, understanding and knowing that the day was going to come," said Felicia Young, who attended her son's news conference. "Everything is all right. This is great."

Asked how he might spend some of the millions of dollars he'll earn as an NFL player, Young said, "It all depends on mama."

Young is Texas' all-time leader in total offense (9,167 yards), career touchdowns (81) and career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (37).

This season, Young became the only player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards (3,036) and rush for 1,000 (1,050) in one season. His 4,086 total yards set a school single-season record.

Young won the Davey O'Brien Award for the nation's best quarterback and the Maxwell Award for the top college football player, but came in second behind USC running back Reggie Bush in the Heisman voting.

"I feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in college," Young said.

Though he's leaving a year early, Young emphasized his bond with Texas, saying, "I'll forever be a Longhorn."

Young's departure leaves a gaping hole to fill in the offense if Texas is to defend its title.

The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, freshman Colt McCoy, redshirted last season and didn't take a snap. Texas expects to sign another prep standout, Jevan Snead, who plans to enroll in school this month and participate in spring drills in February.

"We have 15 starters back next year and our expectations today remain the same as before Vince's decision," Brown said. "We are defending national champions and will move forward."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.