Before Vince Young led the Texas Longhorns to the 2005 national championship, he was already a schoolboy legend at Houston Madison.
High school football fans flocked to see him in such masses that Houston Independent School District stadiums often weren’t large enough to hold the crowds.
“We played nine games in the Astrodome his senior year, and the smallest crowd was about 20,000,” said former Madison coach Ray Seals. “We had 40,000 when we played North Shore. Everybody wanted to see that kid play.”
Nobody had seen a quarterback quite like Young with his 6-5 frame, rifle arm and legs that made him the most dangerous running quarterback in the country. Fans came out to see Young do something they’d never seen before, and he usually delivered.
Madison coach Pat Reinecke, who was the team’s offensive line coach during Young’s high school years from 1998 to 2001, marveled at what he saw week after week.
“He just had it,” Reinecke said. “He was a once in a lifetime kind of kid. He was born with it.”
Young will be inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame on Saturday after a Madison career in which he threw for 4,860 yards and 61 touchdowns and rushed for 2,764 yards.
Young had the talent to play for the varsity as a freshman, but Seals wanted him to learn the game more extensively before he played him against upperclassmen. As Madison’s freshman coach in 1998, Reinecke felt like he had been handed a gift.
“As a freshman, he made me look good,” Reinecke said. “We had a lot of talent and it started with him. It really didn’t matter what we called. I remember a play that he must have run 50 yards and only gained about 15. He’d go right, then left and then forward. He was running all over the field against their whole team.”
By his sophomore year, Young was starting for the Madison varsity. Seals ran a veer offense that relieved heavily on Young’s running ability, but he also had to learn how to become a more patient passer and throw the ball accurately.
“He had to learn to sit in the pocket,” Seals said. “When someone came up to him, he just wanted to go outside. He had to learn how to take proper steps and throw it. But he was one of those kids who came to practice early and stayed late.”
While Young enjoyed solid sophomore and junior seasons, he exploded as a senior when he passed for 2,545 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 1,274 yards and 24 scores.
One of Young’s most memorable games came in the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals when he threw for 177 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 192 yards and three scores in a 61-58 shootout win over Galena Park North Shore. Madison was ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today while North Shore was No. 5.
“I remember telling Vincent that if we had to punt one time we were going to lose it,” Seals said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry coach.’ Vincent made plays when he had to make them.”
The following week, Young’s high school career ended with a 48-42 loss to powerful Austin Westlake in the semifinals. Young delivered another great game as he passed for 400 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards and another score.
As one of the most highly recruited players in the country, Young was overrun by college recruiters during his junior and senior years.
“One day you’d see (former Miami coach) Butch Davis in Coach Seals’ office and then another day you’d see (former Texas coach) Mack Brown,” Reinecke said. “You’d look around and see all these guys you see on TV. But Coach Seals really prepared Vincent on how to handle the recruiting process and how to handle the pressure.”
Seals had Young narrow his college choices to a top five by his senior year and had coaches limit phones calls to two days a week. Young eventually chose Texas and developed into an All-America quarterback and the runnerup for the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 2005.
Seals attended Young’s crowning moment at the 2006 Rose Bowl when he led the Longhorns to their first national championship since 1970 in a thrilling 41-38 win over USC.
“That was electrifying,” Seals said. “There were 100,000 at the Rose Bowl and I heard people saying, ‘Give V.Y. the ball.’ I was glad to see it.”
It was Young’s last college came as he decided to forgo his senior year at Texas to declare for the NFL draft. He was taken with the third overall pick in the first round by the Tennessee Titans and won NFL rookie of the year in 2006. He played six seasons before officially announcing his retirement in 2014.
Young, who didn’t respond to interview requests, is back at the University of Texas serving as a diversity and community engagement officer where he helps raise money for educational programs.
Seals is glad to see him recognized by the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
“There’s not a more deserving guy, I think the world of him,” Seals said. “I would say he’s the best athlete I coached and the most productive one.”