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The Star
Tim Layden
January 07, 2006
The most dynamic quarterback in college football, Vince Young carried Texas to a national title even as he struggled to come to terms with his estranged father
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January 07, 2006

The Star

The most dynamic quarterback in college football, Vince Young carried Texas to a national title even as he struggled to come to terms with his estranged father

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The consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation, Vince narrowed his choices to Miami and Texas. The day the Longhorns won the recruiting battle, Vince won over the Longhorns' coaches. Sitting in his grandmother's living room, he told offensive coordinator Greg Davis that he was not only willing to redshirt but also wanted to redshirt behind Simms and Chance Mock. "After Vince told me he wanted to sit out, with all the hype he was getting," says Davis, "I went out to the car and called Mack, right there by the curb, and told him, 'This is the guy you've been looking for.'"

OCCASIONALLY VINCE'S father saw him play and read accounts of his games in the paper. But just past midnight on Nov. 8, 2000, when Vince was a junior at Madison, his father was arrested by Fort Bend County sheriffs on the University of Houston's West Campus after he and an accomplice had taken a television set, a VCR, a computer and a laser-disc player from a building in which Young had worked as a janitor. In a statement to police Young said, "I needed money for child support because I am already on back payments.... I told [his accomplice] my situation, and we agreed to go to the University of Houston campus to get some things so I could turn it into money.... I was desperate." Young had kept a key from his janitorial job and used it to enter the building. In July 2003 he pleaded guilty to burglary and, because of his criminal record, was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Young is incarcerated in a medium-security prison outside Richmond, Texas, 45 minutes southwest of Houston. At 48 he is one of the oldest inmates in the unit, a trusty who is afforded more freedom than most. One morning last summer Young sat across from a reporter, the men separated by a pane of dirty glass. Young smiled when told that his son resembles him. "I wanted to be a better person, but I just got caught up living that fast life," he said. "I'm disappointed in myself, but life goes on. I'm trying to do what it takes to be a better citizen."

He said he keeps a scrapbook detailing Vince's career. On Saturday mornings in the fall he lines up at the prison recreation center before it opens, so that he can get a seat in front of the television. He writes letters to Vince but sends them to his own mother, Betty, who lives in Houston, and to Felicia.

Young was told that his son resents him. "You can't blame him for that," the father said. "I know our relationship could be better if I was out there with him. I'm doing this interview so people will know how his dad feels about him. I always wanted to set a good example, but like I said, I got caught up."

What would he do, Young was asked, if he could meet with his son now? "I'd hold him, hug him, tell him I'm sorry and I love him as a son," said Young. "I want him to know it hurts me to be here, not seeing his games." He paused and rubbed a hand across his face. He nodded at the reporter's notebook and said, "I'd appreciate it if you'd write all that down."

THE WOMEN in Vince's life hope he will someday make peace with his father. "Dad knows he can't make up for all those years," says Vintrisa, who writes to her father once a month. "Vincent is eventually going to understand, and everything will work out."

Felicia says, "We have all fallen in life. Ain't nobody perfect but Jesus." Now 48, she says her partying days ended on July 27, 1996. ("When God called me," she says.) She phones her son every morning at five o'clock and reads a piece of scripture into his voice mail so he can listen to it when he awakens.

Still, it's difficult to imagine a reconciliation between father and son. Vince has, indeed, tried to not be like his father. As a teenager he protected his older sisters from unwanted suitors. "Vincent was big," Vintrisa says, "and if some guy was around we didn't like, Vincent would just give him that She's my sister look, and that guy was gone." He gave away both sisters at their weddings. Vintrisa, now divorced, called her little brother's cellphone on June 19 to wish him a Happy Father's Day because, she says, "I always thought of him as my father."

As part of Vince's college course work, he spent the early part of this summer working as a teacher in a program for at-risk children ages 12 to 14. A week after his obligation ended, he returned to C.D. Fulkes Middle School in Round Rock, just north of Austin, and surprised his former students.

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