Skip to main content

Young, Steve

Steve Young


American football player

Steve Young, one of professional football's greatest quarterbacks, had to wait his turn for fame, operating for a number of years in the shadow of Joe Montana , his predecessor as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. In the end, Young had to lead his team to a victory in the Super Bowl to prove himself a worthy successor to the legendary Montana. Clean-cut, handsome, and a little on the straitlaced side, Young compiled an impressive record during his 15 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), all but two of them with the 49ers. On a statistical basis, Young stacks up very nicely indeed against Montana. In fact, compared on the basis of the percentage of career passes completed, Young even edges out Montana with a completion rate of 64.3 percent, compared with Montana's 63.2 percent. For four straight years-1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994-Young was the highest rated quarterback in the NFL, an unprecedented feat, and in 1992 and 1994 he was named the league's most valuable player. Despite all these accomplishments, it was still difficult for Young to win the respect he so richly deserved, even after Montana had left San Francisco and taken up quarterbacking duties with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Born in Salt Lake City

He was born Jon Steven Young in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 11, 1961. One of five children of LeGrande (an attorney) and Sherry Young and a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young, one of the founders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church), Young grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was raised as a Mormon, adhering closely to the strict rules of his faith. After high school, where he played quarterback for the varsity football team, Young decided to attend Brigham Young University, his father's alma mater. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a college football star, he joined the Brigham Young football team, only to find himself playing eighth-string quarterback.

Young grew so disillusioned that for a while he considered quitting football altogether but was persuaded by his father to hang in there. Looking back on his years in college football, Young told Sports Illustrated: "I really didn't know how to throw back then. I learned to throw at Brigham Young, mostly from Jim McMahon [who later played for the Chicago Bears]. We were about the same size and had the same athletic abilities." Despite his inauspicious start in college football, Young worked his way up to starting quarterback by his senior year. That year he completed 306 of 429 passes for 3,902 yards and 33 touchdowns, and was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.

Bidding War Erupts

In 1984 Young became the object of a spirited bidding war between the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL and the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League (USFL). When the Express offered a contract that would pay him more than $60 million over 44 years, Young could no longer resist. He signed with the Express and in his two seasons with the team passed for 4,102 yards and 16 touchdowns. Unfortunately, the USFL was on its last legs, so in 1985 Young bought out his contract and signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. It proved an unhappy match for both Young and the Buccaneers, who seemed unable to successfully tap the quarterback's potential.

Bill Walsh, coach of the 49ers, was convinced that Young was capable of greater things, and in 1987 San Francisco negotiated a trade with Tampa Bay. In his early years with the 49ers, Young saw only limited action, for Montana, the team's starting quarterback, was still at the top of his game. In the early 1990s, Young began to assert himself more and more. His big break came in 1991 after Montana was injured in preseason action. Although Young himself was injured later in the season and sidelined for several games, he managed to lead the NFL in passing efficiency with a pass-completion rate of 64.5 percent.

Young Comes into His Own

Montana's injury kept him out of action for most of the 1992 season, giving Young further opportunity to showcase his talents. As starting quarterback, Young passed for 3,465 yards with an impressive pass-completion rate of 66.7 percent, earning him honors as the league's most valuable player. Although Montana played well in the second half of the last game of the regular season, 1992 belonged to Young. Forced to decide whether Montana or Young would start as quarterback in the 1993 season, San Francisco coaches went with Young, prompting Montana to ask to be traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Although the legendary Montana was no longer playing in San Francisco, Young found that his predecessor still had a firm grip on the hearts and minds of 49ers' fans. No matter what magic Young produced on the gridiron, it seemed somehow to pale in comparison to the feats of Montana, at least in the view of most fans. Young turned in a brilliant performance in 1993, passing for 4,023 yards with a completion rate of 68 percent. Equally spectacular were Young's 1994 statistics: 3,969 yards with a pass-completion rate of 70.3 percent. But most importantly of all, Young led his team to a National Football Conference championship with a decisive 38-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The stage was set for the high point of Young's football career: Super Bowl XXIX.


1961 Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 11
1980-84 Attends Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah
1984 Picked by the Los Angeles Express in first round of United States Football League draft
1985 Joins Tampa Bay Buccaneers of NFL
1987 Traded by Buccaneers to San Francisco 49ers
2000 Retires from football on June 12

Awards and Accomplishments

1983 Leads Brigham Young to Holiday Bowl victory over University of Missouri
1985 While in USFL, becomes first pro player to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game
1990 Becomes only second 49ers quarterback to pass for more than 100 yards in a single game
1991 Leads NFL in passing efficiency
1992 Leads NFL in passing with 3,465 yards
1992, 1994 Named most valuable player in NFL
1993 Becomes only 49ers quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in season
1995 Leads 49ers to victory over San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX
1996 Leads NFL in passing efficiency

Passes for Six Super Bowl Touchdowns

Although San Francisco was heavily favored to win in the Super Bowl against the San Diego Chargers, the game was even more one-sided than predicted by the game's most knowledgeable observers. The first time the 49ers got the ball, Young hit Jerry Rice for a touchdown. It was to be only the first of a record six touchdown passes thrown by Young in San Francisco's 49-26 rout of the Chargers. In all, Young passed for 325 yards, winning him Super Bowl most valuable player honors. It took one of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history, but finally Young had won the hearts of San Francisco fans everywhere.

Injury began to take its toll on Young. In 1995 he missed five games of the regular season after injuring his left shoulder, but he still managed to pass for 3,200 yards with a completion rate of 66.9 percent. Young missed four games in 1996 because of injury but again acquitted himself well, passing for 2,410 yards with a completion rate of 67.7 percent. In the eyes of many observers, Young enjoyed his greatest season as a pro in 1998, passing for 4,170 yards with a completion rate of 62.3 percent. But the cumulative damage from multiple injuries-including a number of concussions-began to take its toll. In 1999 Young played in only three games, passing for 446 yards.

Citing the numerous concussions he had suffered, Young, on June 12, 2000, announced his retirement from football. It had taken him a long time to win the respect of 49ers' fans, but in the end he was able to walk away from the game with his head held high. In his assessment of Young's career, New York Giants coach Jim Fassel told Sporting News: "Steve kind of set the tone for the way the game is played. Everyone saw how he ran the offense, how effective he was. Now everyone is looking for a guy that mobile."


Address: c/o Forever Young Foundation, PO Box 527, Park City, UT 84060. Phone: (800) 994-3837.

Career Statistics

SFO: San Francisco 49ers; TB: Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1985 TB 5 138 72 935 52.2 6.8 3 8
1986 TB 14 363 195 2282 53.7 6.3 8 13
1987 SFO 8 69 37 570 53.6 8.3 10 0
1988 SFO 11 101 54 680 53.5 6.7 3 3
1989 SFO 10 92 64 1001 69.6 10.9 8 3
1990 SFO 6 62 38 427 61.3 6.9 2 0
1991 SFO 11 279 180 2517 64.5 9.0 17 8
1992 SFO 16 402 268 3465 66.7 8.6 25 7
1993 SFO 16 462 314 4023 68.0 8.7 29 16
1994 SFO 16 461 324 3969 70.3 8.6 35 10
1995 SFO 11 447 299 3200 66.9 7.2 20 11
1996 SFO 12 316 214 2410 67.7 7.6 14 6
1997 SFO 15 356 241 3029 67.7 8.5 19 6
1998 SFO 15 517 322 4170 62.3 8.1 36 12
1999 SFO 3 84 45 446 53.6 5.3 3 4
TOTAL 169 4149 2667 33124 64.3 8.0 232 107

Where Is He Now?

Since stepping down as the star quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers in June 2000, Steve Young has devoted the bulk of his time and energy to running his Forever Young Foundation. The foundation, founded by Young in 1993, is a non-profit public charity that works to promote the development, security, strength, and education of children. It is funded entirely by corporate and public contributions and the proceeds from fund-raising events, including the annual Steve Young Classic Golf Tournaments held in Arizona and Utah. Young maintains homes in Palo Alto, California, and Provo, Utah.


(With Greg Brown) Forever Young. Dallas: Taylor, 1996.



"Jim McMahon." Contemporary Newsmakers 1985, Issue Cumulation. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986.

"Steve Young." Newsmakers 1995, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1995.

"Steve Young." Sports Stars, Series 1-4. Detroit: UXL, 1994-98.


Barber, Phil. "Young Wins His Way into Heart of San Francisco." Sporting News (June 12, 2000).

Knisley, Michael. "Steve Young vs. Joe Montana." Sporting News (September 19, 1994).


"8, Steve Young, QB." (November 29, 2002).

"Steve Young: Career Notes." ESPN. (November 29, 2002).

"Steve Young: Career Statistics." ESPN. (November 29, 2002).

"Steve Young: Profile." ESPN. (November 29, 2002).

Sketch by Don Amerman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Young, Steve." Notable Sports Figures. . 20 Sep. 2017 <>.

"Young, Steve." Notable Sports Figures. . (September 20, 2017).

"Young, Steve." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved September 20, 2017 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.