Young outruns the field, is top offensive rookie

Updated: January 3, 2007, 12:56 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Vince Young looks as if he'll make the NFL his personal playground, too.

Vince Young
Craig Melvin-US PRESSWIREVince Young ran away with the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

The dynamic quarterback for the Tennessee Titans won The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award on Wednesday. He did it in the same fashion he turned around the Titans' season -- running away from the rest of the field.

Young, who led Texas to the 2005 national championship and was the third overall pick in last April's draft, overwhelmed one of the strongest rookie classes in NFL history. He received 23 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.

That easily beat New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston and Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had nine apiece; San Diego tackle Marcus McNeill (6); and Saints running back Reggie Bush (3).

Running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of Tampa Bay won the award last year. Young is the third member of the Tennessee-Houston franchise to take top rookie honors: Earl Campbell in 1978 and Eddie George in 1996 did it for the Houston Oilers.

Young was the catalyst in Tennessee's rally from 0-5 to 8-8, at times looking as unstoppable for the Titans as he did with the Longhorns. A starter from Week 4, Young sprinkled all kinds of spectacular big plays with a growing maturity in joining Ben Roethlisberger (2004) as the only quarterbacks to win top rookie honors in the 49-year history of the award.

He became the first rookie quarterback to rush for more than 500 yards in the Super Bowl era, and his passing skills improved all year under coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

"I like to go out there and play the game and show that I can deliver the ball down the field, and that I can use my legs at the right time, when it's time to use my legs, and checking the ball down, just being a quarterback," Young said. "I want to change the game a little bit."

Offensive Rookie of Year voting
Player Team Votes
Vince Young Tennessee 23
Marques Colston New Orleans 9
Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville 9
Marcus McNeil San Diego 6
Reggie Bush New Orleans 3

He's already helped change the perception of what a first-year quarterback can do given playing time. Young sat and learned for barely a month while Kerry Collins started and the Titans struggled. Then Fisher turned to the youngster well before he'd planned.

And Young delivered as the Titans threatened to become the first team to lose its opening five games and then make the playoffs. They were in contention until the final weekend, thanks greatly to a six-game winning streak that included a remarkable comeback from 21-0 down in the final 10 minutes to beat the Giants.

"He was very prepared when he got here because of the experience he had in college," said Fisher, who along with Tennessee's scouts and general manager Floyd Reese chose Young over Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler in the draft. "We knew that he had a chance to improve and obviously that's why we went ahead and started him when we did. We felt like he was ready."

Chow, who worked with Heisman Trophy winners Leinart and Carson Palmer at Southern California, is considered one of the finest teachers of quarterbacks in the business. What does he like most about Young, who left Texas after his junior season?

"Besides the physical skills, it's the will and the strength inside, the 'it' factor that a quarterback either has or doesn't have," Chow said. "Obviously, he has it. The quickness in which he won the team over and the quickness in which he became the leader, the guy everybody looked up to, that was special.

"Vince Young has this great ability to lift others around him. To see him do it so quickly, that wasn't a surprise, but it was certainly good to see."

Perhaps Young's finest moment was a 39-yard TD run in overtime to beat Houston, his hometown team that bypassed the Lone Star State hero to take defensive end Mario Williams atop the draft. There seemed to be as many Titans No. 10 jerseys in Reliant Stadium as any Texans shirts.

"It was a great ending," Young said. "Being from Houston and being in front of my family and the fans that respect me as a player and a person, as well, it can't get any better than that."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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