Wiedmer: Young's riches-to-rags story growing old

Wiedmer: Young's riches-to-rags story growing old

January 23rd, 2014 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Vince Young

Apparently $26 million doesn't last as long as it once did. At least it hasn't with former Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.

The Houston Chronicle revealed Wednesday that Young has been forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to assets of no more than $1 million and liabilities between $1,001,000 and $10 million.

The legal reasons for such a filing are likely due to two lawsuits currently involving Young that stem from a $1.8 million loan he took out in 2011 due to the the NFL lockout. Non-payment has escalated that debt to $2.5 million, though Young insists he's never seen the money.

But that hardly explains where that guaranteed $26 million went. Throwing yourself $300,000 birthday parties and spending as much as $5,000 a week at the Cheesecake Factory might, however.

To be fair, Young disputes the claim by his former financial advisor, Ronnie Peoples, that he took out the $1.8 million loan to pay for said birthday party. He's not disputing the party's amount necessarily, just the reason for the loan.

There has been no disputing that he once blew as much as $6,000 at a T.G.I. Friday's. That he regularly spent $5,000 a week at a Nashville area Cheesecake Factory during his rookie season with the Titans. That he once tipped a kid $200 for carrying his luggage through an airport. Or that his current assets include five cars and $200,000 worth of jewelry.

Oh, wait. Maybe the loan was to finally pay the Titans back for the shoulder pads he once infamously threw into the stands following an overtime loss to Washington in 2010.

Not that Young has ever seen the folly in any of this.

His typically clueless, irresponsible reasoning for how all of this may have led him to be without an NFL job the past two years could be seen in this October quote published on CBS's website: "Me and my wife and all my peers and fans, we're all trying to figure this stuff out. I don't have the slightest idea. It's like a huge question mark over my head every day. I wake up in the morning to take care of my responsibilities and know I should be playing. To not have one of those calls, it's tough."

He's had plenty of calls. More than most. After the Titans cut him loose following the 2010 season, the Eagles signed him to be Michael Vick's backup. When that failed, he got opportunities with Buffalo and Green Bay, which desperately needed a capable backup for Aaron Rodgers.

So apparently all those folks are wrong about the 30-year-old Young's skills. Sure, they are. Within a National Football League that has allowed a culture of guns, drugs, mistreatment of women and public embarrassment for years by its players in the name of winning, it has somehow placed Young on double-secret probation for no reason?

Give me a break.

Yes, Young was the AFC offensive rookie of the year and went 30-17 as a Titans starter. And there are still those who wonder what might have happened if the coaching staff had tailored its offense around his unique athletic abilities in the way the San Francisco 49ers have Colin Kaepernick, rather than forcing him into a more traditional attack.

Just let Vince be Vince, the thinking went, and he'll be every bit as In-Vince-able as he was in leading Texas to the BCS national championship.

And perhaps he would have. Perhaps he still could. But Young isn't 24 years old anymore. He's 30. He never really passed it well enough to make NFL defensive coordinators nervous and the whispers around Titans headquarters always hinted that he didn't work hard enough to get better.

His defenders will say it's complicated, that we should all have to rise above a childhood cruelly touched by prostitution, drugs, crime and severe poverty. No one ever taught a young Young about saving money for a rainy day, about steering clear of the leeches who'll suck every dime you have, then disappear when the dimes are gone, unwilling to help you through the hard times they helped cause.

It is a story replayed far too often among athletes and entertainers. Love him or loathe him, former Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin was right in his recruiting pitch for the Commodores when he said NFL stands for "Not For Long." Young is far from the first to blow through millions the way most of us run through bread and milk and he won't be the last.

Yet that also ignores the point that the NFL goes out of its way to teach its rookies about such pitfalls. Because of that, because he had so many similar examples to learn from, Young's riches-to-rags is a story's that's grown old.

That doesn't mean it shouldn't make us sad or angry, however. As American dreams go, Vince Young once had it all. Now it's all gone, tossed away as quickly and flippantly as he once tossed those shoulder pads.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com