BEREA, Ohio — Vince Young finished his three-day tryout with the Browns and immediately canceled his plans to travel home to Texas.
Young, fellow quarterback Tyler Thigpen and journeyman linebacker Zac Diles participated in voluntary veteran minicamp this week on a tryout basis. Each of them signed a contract Thursday after the final practice. Terms were not immediately disclosed.
Now Young is determined to earn his keep.
“They asked me if I wanted to fly home today,” Young said shortly after his deal was finalized. “I said, ‘No, I’m going to stay here over the weekend and get some more work in and continue to keep working.’
“To make the team, that’s the focus. It’s not just (the goal) that I have, but my family, my wife, my kids. We’re happy about the situation right now, but there’s no popping the champagne bottle.”
Young hasn’t appeared in a regular-season NFL game since Dec. 18, 2011, when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent parts of the 2012 and 2013 offseasons with the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers, respectively, but failed to make either 53-man roster.
The former third overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2006 who has an Offensive Rookie of the Year award and two Pro Bowls on his resume insists he has been humbled. A promising career blossomed when Young led the University of Texas to a BCS National Championship but later fizzled under the weight of emotional and financial issues and a falling out with former Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work and going through the trials and tribulations and not understanding a lot of different situations,” said Young, whose record as an NFL starter is 31-19. “But the biggest thing is to stay prayed up, continuing to keep fighting and knowing that if this opportunity comes that I don’t want to be not in shape or not ready. I wanted to be ready, so I’m just happy that I stayed on task and kept my feet on the gas.
“I definitely learned from a lot of the good and the bad. I’m very happy. I wouldn’t take it back for the world. Most people ask, ‘Would you change anything?’ I wouldn’t change anything. That’s the life God put in front of me, and that’s the path and He knew about it. So that was just a learning part in seeing how I was going to handle it.”
By signing Young and Thigpen, both of whom are 30, the Browns have restocked their supply of quarterbacks seven weeks after they cut Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell on the same day. The franchise now has four quarterbacks on its roster with Young, Thigpen and Alex Tanney positioned behind incumbent starter Brian Hoyer on the depth chart, and, of course, the organization is also expected to pick a quarterback early in next week’s draft.
The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Thigpen was out of the league last season. He spent the 2012 and 2011 seasons as a backup for the Bills. A seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2007, he also has played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
“I thought for a while there that the door was going to close, but now that opportunity has opened back up,” said Thigpen, whose career record as a starter is 1-11. “It’s time to take advantage of it. Right now, the position that I’m in as a backup quarterback, my job is to make the guy in front of me better. That’s what I’ll bring to the Browns.”
The 6-5, 229-pound Young has a long way to go to convince the Browns that he can add value to the team in the fall. Still, coach Mike Pettine said Young showed a few flashes of the former Heisman Trophy runner-up during minicamp.
“Rust was falling off in large clumps,” Pettine said Thursday after practice. “He flashed a couple times. He threw a nice long ball the other day. You don’t realize how big he is until you stand next to him. We talk about all these 6-foot, 5-11 quarterbacks in this draft, and then he comes walking out and you say, ‘Oh, that’s what they’re supposed to look like.”‘
Young and new Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains spent five seasons together with the Titans. New Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also knows Young well because he was in his final season as a wide receiver at Texas while Young redshirted as a freshman.
Despite Young’s NFL career collapsing, his family has helped him maintain faith that he still has the talent Loggains and Shanahan saw years ago.
“I was raised by two strong women and two older sisters, no man in the household, so I had to learn pretty quick,” Young said. “That’s what I picked up from my mom and my grandmothers €” just being strong, continue to keep working, something’s going to happen, pray and put it in God’s hands. (They) didn’t give up on me when all the things were gone and a lot of doors were closed.”