AUSTIN, Texas – Vince Young rolled to his left, unfurled his arm and stood stone-faced as the football zoomed 25 yards to its intended mark. Almost immediately, one of the onlookers in the front row of the stands clapped and howled in approval.
Finally, Young smiled.
"Hi grandma," he said, waving to the sidelines.
If only the NFL skeptics were so easily appeased.
The Texas quarterback whose game has undergone an unrelenting autopsy since winning the national championship in January had a strong showing Wednesday while working out for over 150 scouts, personnel men and other NFL executives. Other than USC's workout in April, there likely won't be another pro day that comes close to the collection of league royalty that showed up in Texas' capital.
The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans sent all of their key offensive coaches and major front-office players. Texans owner Bob McNair was also on hand, along with head coach Nick Saban and general manager Randy Mueller of the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson, St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel.
And for the most part, Young didn't disappoint.
While he wasn't the superhuman display of athleticism some expected, Young performed well during a scripted session of 54 "moving target" passes. It was a display that featured most – but not all – of the types of throws teams had hoped to see.
When it was over, the prevailing feeling was that Young did nothing to drop himself out of the top-five picks, and he remained in contention with USC's Matt Leinart to be the first quarterback off the board on draft day.
"He solidified that he's capable of making all the NFL throws," Jacksonville Jaguars general manager James Harris said. "The footwork is good. He sets up good with his feet and has a quick release.
"I don't know that everybody thought he was just another shotgun quarterback. I think sometimes people are looking for things people can't do, and then it gets magnified."
Surely, all of Young's perceived imperfections have been under the microscope. Seemingly every negative has been well-documented – from his sidearm throwing motion, to his Wonderlic score, to the concern that he ran an offense that rarely placed him under center in college. But Young addressed at least some of the criticisms Wednesday, working only in drop-back situations and going through three-, five- and seven-step drops. By the end of a workout designed by former NFL offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome, Young had completed 49 of 54 passes.
In reality, he had only three bad passes – balls that were overthrown on short, intermediate and deep routes. Two others were dropped by receivers. Mostly, each completion showcased a clean spiral with good velocity. His throwing motion didn't appear to be a big topic of concern, though one team source said that Young would need to have perfect lower-body mechanics to keep his throwing shoulder from dipping – a problem which causes sidearm throws to sail.
But that rarely happened Wednesday. Instead, Young showed his ability to be very accurate throwing on the run, rolling to his left or right, and he had little difficulty throwing swing passes and screens. Perhaps more importantly, he did well on the highly scrutinized 15- and 20-yard out routes that some consider to be the most challenging pass with accuracy and velocity.
The apex of the workout came late in the 40-minute throwing session, when Young dropped back, spun in reverse and rolled to his left and uncorked a perfect 60-yard spiral to a wideout striding into the end zone. That left the crowd buzzing as the workout came to a close a few minutes later.
"I know he's a fine player and he's got a big arm," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose team is considering Young with the No. 1 pick. "I was very impressed with his accuracy today. He's got a personality that's very energetic. People kind of gravitate to him. You could see that today in the workout. He just reassured everybody of those things.
"He's been working underneath the center – you can tell. That was impressive because he didn't do that much in college. But he definitely did it very well right here."
Still, the day didn't come without some consternation.
There was some early grumbling after personnel people were told Young, despite not working out at the combine, would be skipping the 40-yard dash and all of the agility drills. The frosty reaction from some coaches apparently convinced Young to run the 40, which he did once – clocking anywhere from 4.50 to 4.57 seconds. He didn't do the long jump, shuttles or vertical jump, raising at least a few eyebrows from personnel men who expected him to showcase his athleticism.
"They wanted to see me run, and I wanted to go out there and show them I am a team guy," Young said. "If any coaches want to see Vince do anything, I'm not going to stand back and not do it. This is Vince Young. I want to go out there and show them that I can run."
The teams with the most interest will likely get any remaining questions out of the way in personal workouts. The Titans spent Wednesday night with Young and were also expected to go through drills with their own receivers on Thursday. Two other teams have set up personal workouts – with Young headed to Baltimore to work out with the Ravens in the coming weeks, and the New York Jets bringing their own receivers to Houston to go through their own drills.
"It's all on Vince and letting the coaches coach me," Young said. "It's all up to me. If I go in there and sugarcoat it and not work like I'm supposed to be doing, then I'm not going to be the Vince that's supposed to be in the NFL. But if I go in there and work really hard and get into the film room, get with whatever starting quarterback that is already there, get under his wing and try to understand different things and try to compete, I should be all right."
Unless there's some kind of monumental meltdown in the team workouts, Young appears to have picked up the momentum to keep him at the top of the draft. But it would be a stretch to say he's secured his position over Leinart, or even Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler. Both of those players will have their own personal workouts with the Titans and Jets, and their interviews will determine the true pecking order of this class of quarterbacks.
Lest anyone forget, Alex Smith's personal workout secured his place as last year's No. 1 pick and left Aaron Rodgers to plummet on draft day. That frames Wednesday as only the latest leg of a race that is expected to stretch right up to April 29, the first day of the draft. For now at least, Young has kept pace.
As Kubiak said: "He did everything you could ask him to do."
All that's left is to see if someone else does more.
- Vince Young