PASADENA, Calif. – Mack Brown said it with a straight face, and far be it from us to say he didn't mean it.
Just minutes after his quarterback Vince Young put on a show for the ages and delivered the Texas Longhorns the national championship in the Rose Bowl in a performance that, should Young have chosen, could have set off a night of L.A. that found him doing anything from a dozen Belvedere Martinis at Skybar to cavorting around with a Hilton sister, ol' Mack was talking about next year.
"If he comes back next year, which we think he will, he'll have a great shot to win the Heisman," Brown said.
The Heisman? We are in no position to tell Young what to do, but going back to the ranch for another season? After 467 yards and three touchdowns in the national championship game? Are you nuts?
Those boosters had better hand over three oil wells in exchange for that.
(And let's all be honest here; don't think it isn't at least being discussed by a round table of Longhorn backers. "Vincent, come back for your senior year, and forget those $100 handshakes – how's Abilene sound?")
The question is no longer whether Young should forgo his senior season and hit the NFL draft. It is whether his hometown Houston Texans, currently on the clock with the top pick, should throw caution and David Carr into the wind and grab him.
In the run up to the Rose Bowl all the questions were about Reggie Bush, USC's Heisman-winning running back, and the Texans.
While Bush may have beaten Young for that Heisman, it is Young who looks like the superior NFL prospect right now, and that isn't to take a single thing away from Bush.
To start, quarterback is a much more valuable position than running back. A franchise quarterback is invaluable, and all but the very best running backs are a dime a dozen.
At QB, Young is just about the most outrageous collection of physical talent, calm decision making and on-field smarts to come down the pipe. He can run like few other quarterbacks ever, but he only seems to do it at the exact right moment. He doesn't just bail out on passing plays; he checks off multiple receivers before heading into the open field to humiliate some poor defender.
"It's all about focus and poise," he said, in the way stars do, almost unable to describe how the sensational can look so simple.
Young's development as a passer has been remarkable over the past two seasons. As a freshman, he was little more than a runner. Today, while he still doesn't possess a strong arm, he has made significant gains and now is at least extremely accurate – he was 30-of-40 for 267 yards against USC. Most importantly, his improvement speaks to an understanding that he wants to fit his talents to the NFL system, not vice versa. He sounds as committed to self-improvement as Peyton Manning ever does.
Not that you can ignore the running. He got 200 yards, three touchdowns and 50 ESPY nominations Wednesday.
"He probably made us miss a dozen tackles tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll said in a vast understatement. "We slipped right off the guy."
The key to Young is his size, 6 feet, 5 inches and 240 pounds of muscle that can move like a scat back. No scrambling quarterback can have a long career in the NFL with all those man-eating linebackers, but Young knows that. Then again, he might be the exception. He can dish out a little pain, too.
"He is a difficult quarterback to face because he's so fast," Carroll said. "It's not that he's scrambling. He's a fast guy and he's big."
Vince Young is the perfect quarterback for a NFL franchise that isn't run by some Cro-Magnon coaching staff who merely wants to run an old dropback system rather than tailor something to someone with incredible gifts. If that's Houston, then the Texans should take Bush. But if not, how do you pass up the local legend?
Perhaps the greatest thing about Young is his flair for the fabulous, dare-to-dream decision making.
Bush beat out Young for the Heisman, and it didn't take a mind reader to know that while Young said all the right things after, it bothered him.
So was it a coincidence when the Rose Bowl went down like this? In the first quarter, Bush was racing toward the Texas end zone when, on the verge of being tackled, he made an ill-fated lateral to cost USC the ball and momentum.
It was a bad play. You figured no one on the field again would try something so crazy. But on the ensuing possession, Young was racing toward the SC end zone when, on the verge of being tackled (or, as TV replays showed, shortly after he was tackled), he made a perfect lateral to Selvin Young that resulted in an easy, take-the-lead touchdown.
Was he telling Bush something? Something about I can do what you can't?
Was he telling the Houston Texans?