BEREA — Vince Young hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since Dec. 18, 2011, but the Browns believe he can still play quarterback in the NFL.
Obviously, so does Young, which is why the former college football phenom was all smiles Thursday after signing a one-year contract with Cleveland.
“There is no popping champagne bottles, but I am happy right now,” said Young, who has been out of the league since being cut by Green Bay on Aug. 31. “I thank God that I did have the opportunity to make the first phase of the team.
“I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations, but the biggest thing has always been staying prayed up and to keep fighting. I’m very happy that I kept moving my feet forward and never stopped working.”
Young, the 2005 Heisman Trophy runner-up at Texas, attended the Browns’ three-day minicamp on a tryout basis, along with fellow quarterback Tyler Thigpen. Both veterans were offered contracts by general manager Ray Farmer shortly after walking off the practice field.
They join returning starter Brian Hoyer and second-year pro Alex Tanney on the roster heading into next week’s NFL Draft, when Cleveland is almost certain to add another QB.
“You either can play in the league or you can’t, so I like guys who are NFL players,” Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Tyler and Vince have both had some success in this league, especially Vince, so it’s been good to get him in here and get a look.
“Most guys do it with their arm. Some guys are capable of doing it with their legs. But if you’ve got a guy who can do both, you’ve got a special player.”
Young, who will turn 31 on May 18, was the third overall pick in 2006 by the Titans and owns a 31-19 record as a starter. His NFL career, however, has been crippled by on-field inconsistency and off-field emotional and financial issues, including a bankruptcy filing three months ago.
The 6-foot-5, 229-pounder last played in a regular-season game three years ago with the Eagles, and attended training camp with the Bills in 2012 and Packers in 2013.
“You could tell he’s very rusty, but he flashed a couple of times and threw a nice long ball the other day,” Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said. “I was joking with him that the rust was falling off in large clumps.”
Young chuckled when told of Pettine’s comment, saying, “I still got a couple more scrapes to get off and some oil to put on,” but turned serious when discussing the reason he has persevered.
“I just want to be a good role model for my kids and for the community,” said Young, who credited his faith for getting him through the past several years. “I was raised by two stronger women and two older sisters — no man in the household — so I had to grow up pretty quick.
“I definitely learned from the good and the bad, and I wouldn’t change really nothing. That was the life that God put in front of me, and I feel like I handled it pretty good.”
During his prime, Young was one of the premier dual-purpose threats in the sport, passing for 8,964 yards and rushing for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns in 60 NFL contests.
Though he was undeniably exciting, the Texas native’s passer rating was a mediocre 74.4, and he threw 51 interceptions to 46 touchdowns for Tennessee and Philadelphia. His much publicized clashes with Titans coach Jeff Fisher also didn’t help his reputation around the league.
“In Buffalo and Green Bay, I thought I had the opportunity to make the team and it didn’t happen, but they both told me I was very professional and did everything they could ask for,” Young said.
“That’s the same way I approached this minicamp. Whatever happens upstairs, that’s the decision they’ll make, but I’m just grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Those weren’t just idle words from Young, who declined the Browns’ offer to fly him home following the final minicamp workout. He said his wife and kids are “very happy,” but understand why he is staying in Cleveland at least through the weekend.
“A lot of family, friends and UT alum have kept my spirits up all along,” Young said. “Now that God has blessed me with this opportunity, I want to show everyone here how hard I am willing to work for it.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.