The NFL legend downplays both events but the book – published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and co-authored by Sports Illustrated special features contributor Jeff Benedict – is many years in the making. A candid and compelling sports memoir, it chronicles Young’s early family life, his Mormon faith and college years at Brigham Young University, and his legendary professional career in both the USFL and the National Football League.
What’s most interesting – Young never set out to publish a book. He speaks with Front Row about the more personal motivation for this project and why it is so important to him.
Talk about the decision to write your memoir.
One day my son, who was probably 10 at the time, came home from school – I don’t remember the exact story – and he said something about Joe Montana and me and some crazy story. And I was like, ‘No, that’s true.’ And I realized my kids didn’t even know my story. It sent a shiver through me. I don’t have a diary, or something I can just hand to my kids. It just got me thinking that I need to have something so they know what happened, and not by word of mouth.
What did you do next?
At that time, a good friend of mine named Bob Gay had hired Jeff [Benedict] to do something for him personally. So I told Bob about this issue which just came up with my son and I just want to do something. He said he knew the guy to call and told me about Jeff.
I told Jeff to just call friends and family, players and teammates and I just asked him to put a narrative together. It could be in a folder or in a box, something that the kids could have and sift through. In my mind, that’s what it was.
What made you decide to publish?
A couple or three years in, Jeff started to show me chapters. That’s when I said to Jeff, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him to write whatever he wanted but we were not going to publish it. Some friends then read it and said it could be useful. That’s when I said okay.
How was the process of doing the book?
It was difficult when it got to be published. Handing the kids something that’s not cleaned up is one thing. In publishing, I had to really put myself in the middle of it, and that’s not something I necessarily wanted to do. I learned a lot from other people. There are great stories in there about me that I appreciate that I would have forgotten. So that’s really worth it for me.
How do you feel now that it’s completed?
Honestly, it was kind of emotional for me – the books just got printed – and I handed one to Braedon, my son. That was kind of the whole purpose. To me, I did what I set out to do.