Steve Young’s Talk at the Affirmation 2013 Annual Conference (Transcript)
Carol Lynn Pearson:
It’s a good thing we have a really great act to follow that one. I’m Carol Lynn Pearson and I have the honor of introducing my friends, and yours, Barb and Steve Young. For those few who might be visiting from Mars here, and don’t know why the name Steve Young is a pretty big name I’ll just refer you to Wikipedia – where you’ll learn all you want to know about the fabulous and celebrated football career of Steve. But Steve was not content to rest on that, and went on to get a Law degree and to do many other wonderful things including establishing a great humanitarian foundation, that serves the particular needs of many thousands of children. But best of all, Steve is an authentically fine human being. Always generous. Always committed to truth. Steve currently teaches Gospel Doctrine class, in their ward in Palo Alto. And you will be pleased to know that Barb is not just a pretty thing on Steve’s arm – that Barb was a woman of brilliance and accomplishment before she became Barb Young. She graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University, in Business. Worked in Europe for 5 years. And Barb did not have the least interest in joining the rarefied world of fame… and consequently refused over and over for quite a long time, the invitations of Steve’s good friend to introduce the two of them. However, finally, Barb agreed to meet Steve, and they found in one another a kindred spirit. And are now the happiest parents of four children. The power couple that you are about to hear from, I know, was brought together by the highest of all power couples, that we call, our Father and Mother in Heaven. And this – for very powerful purposes. From which we are all benefitting. They have determined between them that Steve will speak first, followed by Barb. So I am so happy, ladies and gentlemen, to give you, our friend, Steve Young.
I’m under orders to try and move this forward. (Moves podium). And I do what I’m told.
Wow, great, thanks. Thanks, Carol Lynn. It was good to see so many friends last night, we really enjoyed the evening with the Montgommery’s, and their story, and Benji speaking and Benji dancing. Benji, I can tell you that, that is the hardest playing field that I’ve ever seen… and the things that you were doing… I could do for about fifteen minutes and my career will be over so, really. Great.
It really is great to be here. In 1994, I found myself in the Super Bowl. The biggest game in football. Probably the biggest game in – unless you’re a soccer fan – you know, the biggest game in the world.
The night before the game, the PR guy came to me, for the 49ers, and put a contract in front of my face. And said for, $500, if I signed it – and the next day I could be the Most Valuable Player in the game – that I can be the one that would yell into camera… Now that you’re the most valuable player in the Superbowl, what are you gonna do? And I would be the one to yell into camera… I’m going to Disneyland, right?
So for me, it was really exciting. It was like being on the Wheeties box. It was like one of those things that I had grown up with, that all my heroes did, it was smething that, like, you know, it was an out of body experience. And I went like, Oh my gosh, it’s happening, to me. But it’s me, watching me do this… it was crazy.
And so the next day, as it turned out, I ended up being the MVP of the game. I was so excited that we had won the game. And I was so relieved that the pressure was off. I was more relieved than happy. I don’t know if any of you had faced those kinds of things… I just… my dad, all the years I played he said: ‘Just have fun’. And I’m like… Fun? This is so much pressure… to have fun…
But we had won the game, and I was MVP, and I was just ecstatic. And the guy came to me – the guy who came the night before and said: ‘Remember you have to yell into the camera that you’re going to Disneyland.’ And so I did. I yelled into the camera: ‘I’m going to Disneyland!’ And I thought that’s the neatest thing that I even thought about doing.
And so it was this double dream, that these things were happening.
Later that night, during the celebrations and so forth, he came to me and said, ‘Oh, by the way, that wasn’t a metaphor, I don’t know if you read the contract, but you actually have to go to Disneyland. And you have to go tomorrow.’ And being the lawyer that I was, my wife’s the one to read the contract. I don’t read them, I don’t care…
But I did. I found myself in Miami, back to San Francisco, down in Anaheim… me and my family, we’re Disneyland fanatics. If you knew, you’d be scared of us. And so… I found myself down there, the next night, in front of the castle.
Let me set the stage…
You know that Walt built the main street, it was an optical illusion, so it’s much shorter than it looks like. So he built the road so that it’s actually much shorter. And from the castle there is a huge float – with gold and red, the colors of the 49ers, and on the side it said Steve Young, Super Bowl MVP. And on top was myself, and Mickey Mouse. And in front was the Disneyland Band. You probably didn’t know they had a band. They have a band. And so down Main Street we went.
You gotta remember I had now come off from one of the most euphoric experiences of my life, that night. Everything had been relieved and I had all these wonderful feelings. And now I’m in Anaheim, in California, at Disneyland, which I love. With Mickey Mouse onmy side. And the band in front. And down Main Street we went. And people were, you know, they loved the Superbowl, and they were yelling, ‘Steve, you’re the man! Steve, you’re the greatest, you’re the game, you’re the man’ (unclear) you know…
And I wanna tell you that, there were about… I was really upset with Walt. I really wanted it to be a longer… you know, it was about, it wasn’t even six minutes. It felt like it was about 30 seconds, but for those 6 minutes I found myself kinda lost in the moment. And I started to yell back at them: “I am the man! I am the greatest! I am…” You know, it was like, lost… I never thought that I would be in that situation.
So very quickly, the parade ended, and the van turned to go backstage, and it got kinda quiet, and the parade started to turn and there were two little boys sitting on the curb. Dressed alike, like mom’s like to do so if they get lost… 6 and 8 years old.
And the 6 year old, the younger one, looks up and sees Mickey Mouse… and he’s like… Mickey Mouse, he’s like, right there. And, mesmerized, he started to walk towards the float… and before I could do anything or say anything, for fear that he might get hurt, his brother grabbed him by the shirt, pulled him back, and said: ‘You can’t get near him, the big guy won’t let you.’
I had another out of body experience. Right there, everything crashed. And I was looking at this 8 year old with some… I was just upset. At him. Kid… look at the side of the float! Steve Young. Superbowl MVP. Of all the times in my life that I’m not Mickey Mouse’s bodyguard it is right now. And I want you to honor… honor that.
But it was like many experiences in my life, so many, that I think, I share them all with you. That happen in the immediacy of the moment. That I reflect on, for years and years. The impact, that it had. I can still see the 8 year old. I can still see the red shirts. I can still see the Levi’s. I can still see what he said, and I see it so clearly, because of how it affected me. I immediately realized that yes, I had made it to the top of Everest. But there I was, six minutes later, and I had another role to play. And another perception to deal with.
And I realized that, humility, for me, is sometimes forced. A lot of times, I think it should be more like a favourite pair of shoes. It really is to me one of the most important pieces of my life. Sometimes (unclear) humility is our home base. The place we should always be connected to… whether it’s in the dregs of affliction or a place on the flag at Everest. I need humility to find God’s purpose.
In all those moments in our lives. From the top to the bottom. Not worldly humility but Godly humility. God is in control. Has a plan. And I am capable of coming to know that… humility.
I’ll always be grateful for that little 6 year old and 8 year old that more vividly remind me of that.
I walked in here earlier and someone stood next to me and said: ‘Oh, you’re not as tall as I thought.’
I get that a lot.
I’m only 6 feet. 3 quarters, my wife says, 6 and 3 quarters.
I put down when I first turned pro, they had a sheet, you had to put down all your information so that playing cards can be… you know, if you have playing cards in football, at the back, it says this is your weight and your height… and I put down 6 two. Because that’s what I truly felt that I was.
You know what I’m talking about… at some place in your life…
So if you have a football card of me, if you go home and you have one, at the back it will say 6 two. ‘Cause that’s what I wrote down. And I truly believed it. Until I was measured, and I didn’t get on my toes, and I had to, it was like an official thing…
And they said you’re 6 foot 3 quarters. And I should have gone back and fixed it on the football card but I just couldn’t.
I just love the thought of being 6 two.
I still do, actually.
With the helmet I was 6 two.
But the truth of the matter is, when you’re on the football field, there’s not a lot of people there that are 6 feet. There’s a lot of people that are 6 six. Even 6 seven. Even 6 eight. Some of the guys I played with, quarterbacks, like John Always, Troy Aikman and Dan Merino, they’re all 6 five, or 6 six.
And I always thought that it was so unfair, that they were able to look over the mountain and see the valley, and could tell what was going on. When many times all I could see was, you know, (unclear), and the clouds. But even today Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, they’re like 6 six. Peyton Manning I think is almost 6 seven.
And so the way that that would play out in my life, is that, I would be on the field, and I would throw back a pass, and because I didn’t have the visibility, a lot of the times I literally couldn’t see. And early in my career, I didn’t know what to do about that. I always had to run, and then I’d get tackled and everyone would yell at me and my coach would say, you know ‘Why didn’t you throw the ball? The receiver on your right was open.’
And I would tell him… I couldn’t see him.
And then he had a great comeback, that I think parents and… I find myself with my son, very typically… he said ‘Well, you better start seeing them.’
I said “That’s great! I’ll tell you what… why don’t you point them out, and then I’ll look at you, and we’ll see them together. And then we would all be happy.”
You know, I didn’t know what to do about it. Because I kept hearing and he kept saying ‘if you don’t put this together, you can’t play.’
And I thought that, how many times that I wished I was 6 two, or 6 four, especially then. But I knew I was a slow grower, I knew I wasn’t gonna grow taller, I couldn’t wear, you know, stilts… or springs on my feet and jump up and look… And I thought, what could I do? To be taller… what, possibly… I thought about wearing, like (unclear) that were extra long. That somehow that would give me a little lift. And somehow… I walked on my toes anyway I thought I might just play on my toes.
But it really didn’t make that much of a difference.
And so I didn’t know what to do, other than, I thought… you know, I just saw Jerry Rice, I know where he’s going… I better just throw it anyway. On gut instinct.
And I did that. There was a first few times, if you’ve ever done anything metaphysical like that… where you have some part of you that’s too short and you’re going to reach beyond what’s possible and take a chance…
That’s what I did.
And the first few times, the passes were very inaccurate. They were being caught, a lot of them. But I was known for throwing passes right here. That was kind of my specialty. So I wanted to go to Jerry Rice and tell him… ‘Jerry, I’m throwing the passes very inaccurately right now because I’m going through this metaphysical process of learning to throw the ball blind. And I want you to understand that the passes that you were getting, they’re a little inaccurate, they were passes you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. These are like, extra special.’ He looked at me and said, ‘You know what, just put it right here.’
Because I found that, in the efforts that I was making around growing beyond myself… and really this is a faithful journey for me… to deliver passes in front of 80,000 people, without really knowing, without really being sure…
How many times, you really do want to see. I can tell you on the football field, you really dream. Many times people would say ‘Who’s your favourite receiver?’ and I would say it’s the open receiver, you know? It’s the one that I can see and throw the ball to. I am desperate. Because I’m literally under attack. And if I don’t do something fast, I’m finished. And so please, let me see something. A flash of a color. Something, that I can throw the football.
And if you don’t see it, and you still throw it… I really thought that’s one of the most precious experiences of my life.
In fact people would say to me, Steve, what are some of your favourite, most searing memories of playing all those years. It must be championships or Superbowls or great moments. And I do remember them, but the searing memories for me are the moments of throwing the ball blind.
That I remember vividly.
One of my favorites was to win a game. And I threw a long one blindly, and I was at the bottom of a pile… and just as I threw it I got hit… 350 pounds…
That’s another thing. When Linemen write down their football cards when they are rookies, they would write like, 6’6’’, 320… But the 320 is code for 420. Just like my 6’2’’ is code for 6 foot. So just in case you see someone else’s card you know how that works.
So on top of me… I’m throwing the ball blind in front of 80,000 people. And they’re screaming and yelling against us because it’s on the road. And I throw it, and I get hit, and knocked to the ground, and people piling on top of me…
And all of the sudden I hear everyone go quiet. You know, 80,000 people just silent.
And I thought to myself, Oh my gosh, this is the greatest moment of my career… And I could hear about 50 people over there, you know, my teammates, go Whoohoo…
And it was just a wonderful experience. And I remember those moments so vividly.
And I could tell you that the next day, after I threw passes like that, there was never anything in the paper, that said ‘Steve Young throws blind’. They never had anything that celebrated this thing that I was going through, that was so revealing. And was based… fundamentally… in faith.
And so I can tell you that the greatest things that I can think of that I’ve done has been powered by faith. Kind of throwing without knowing. I would call it… throwing on faith.
Like so many things in my life taught me… that faith is the fundamental fuel for human experience. It’s just been proven to me so many times.
And if the experience is to return to our Heavenly Father, faith is the fuel from the beginning to the end. It’s the power. And so becoming that faithful person is the beginning, the middle and the end.
I appreciate that experience of throwing blind for teaching me to be faithful in the Saviour, instead of more fearful.
I have grown throughout my years with some anxieties. When I was little I didn’t leave home very often. Going to scout camp or even to college was a death defying experience. And so fear and anxieties are innate to me… and so having faith to overcome those kinds of things is really vital to me.
Elder Jeffrey Holland this last April said: “Do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have… leading, as it were, with your unbelief. Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns but first and forever, fan the flame of your faith. Because all things are possible to them that believe. Faithful actions create their own momentum. Doubting is necessary opposition of faith. Or as a favourite local scribe, Robert Kirby, wrote recently: Doubt can have the same effect as nuclear warfare, in terms of what it can do to your life. If you’re not careful. Doubting isn’t bad, it’s actually healthy. It can be educational, but also can lead to destruction if you let it overtake your ability to have faith. The trick is in recognizing where doubt is taking you. So you can manage it instead of letting it manage you.”
Throwing blind was full of doubt, but doubt couldn’t have held sway or I couldn’t have done it. I grew by faith. I was taller.
We are all too short at something. We are all six foot…. Three quarters.
But it’s great faith in Jesus Christ… is my stake in the ground.
Doubts come as I draw back to pass… but I always throw in faith. So whether at the top of the mountain or the dregs of affliction – ready to learn and to grow – and have a deep seated faith in the Saviour. To believe He can do what He said He can do.
I’m just a run of the mill Latter-Day Saint. I grew up listening to Saturday’s Warriors as I did my homework. I crinkled all my pages in the quad, as I scripture chased on Super Saturdays… I didn’t just crinkle the ones that had the scripture.
But through all the challenges, ups and downs, I’m grateful for the Gospel, for the salve that it is for me. And has been throughout my life.
I really am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you, to share my faith and to encourage all of us to seek the supernal gift of Charity through the Pure Love of Christ, in this life.
This charity is gained by praying to the Father with all the energy of heart. That you may be filled with this love. Which He hath bestowed on all those who are true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That you may become the sons of God…
That when He shall appear, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is.
That we may have this hope. That we may be purified even as He is pure.
This charity is to see each one of us, as Jesus sees us. What a fantastic gift and promise charity is, a literal endowment, from my Heavenly Father, for loving His son.
We can have this charity.
We need to see each other for the eternal beings that we are, and for the eternal potential that we have.
I’m here to bear my testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to simply, say that I’m a Mormon. And I want to build bridges of understanding with my gay brothers and sisters. I consider you my friends. Let’s seek to develop more love for each other, wherever we can. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.