He is arguably the most famous man in America. He is many things: a leader, a competitor, a soon-to-be millionaire. He has intangibles that cannot be quantified, such as heart and composure. Through his unparalleled excellence, he has almost single-handedly captured the minds and passions of millions.
And to think that Vince Young almost threw it all away.
In a December 2005 issue of ESPN: The Magazine, Young confessed to America that a defining moment in his youth saw him standing in handcuffs after a gang fight, listening to his mother detail his inevitable future: “Dead or in jail.”
Young goes on to say that after that day, he turned his life around and focused on bettering himself, both as a person and athlete.
Go on, read that last part again.
Surprise America – the two are not mutually exclusive.
Question: Why then are so many college athletes shunning Young’s example and finding themselves in more legal trouble than Tom DeLay?
Answer: Lack of accountability.
For the inattentive, the past few seasons have seen accusations of statutory rape, drug possession, driving with a suspended license and threatening adolescents with a firearm – all regarding the same player. Ah yes, Marcus Vick, ex-Virginia Tech quarterback.
After the accused rape and driving violations —- but before the gun show — Vick was dismissed from the team for stomping on Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumerville’s leg, an act that looked just about as “accidental” as a drive-by shooting. Although the punishment justly fit the crime, the fact is, Vick should’ve been gone long ago. Worse yet, though Vick supplies us with a shining example of moralistic mediocrity, he is not the only culprit in play.
As a matter of fact, off-field issues are a growing epidemic. How about Marcus Williams and A.J. Price, two Connecticut basketball players arrested on suspicion of stealing lap tops from school dormitories? Or even NFL castaway Maurice Clarett, who dropped out of Ohio State after admitting to misleading investigators regarding a theft?
I’m not complaining as much about academic ineligibility; some people are stupid and just can’t help it. But as far as legal issues go, colleges need to start instituting a two-strike policy: season suspension after one arrest, dismissal for a second.
I’ve heard the popular argument that many college athletes grew up in parts of town rougher than the Bellagio. And although I can never comprehend it – being from suburbia – I can honestly say that I think we’re using it as a crutch. If football is supposed to be the disciplinarian sport as it claims to be, what better chance to help young athletes adjust to a cleaner, safer lifestyle than the one we see on the sports ticker every morning? Though college is a time for athletic prowess for the few, it is also a chance for intellectual and character growth for the masses.
It’s about time we expect certain student athletes to start balancing the two.
Sports editor Travis Stewart