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Steve Young’s new book ‘QB’ is ‘what I wanted my kids to know’

SHARE Steve Young’s new book ‘QB’ is ‘what I wanted my kids to know’

Steve Young's recently published autobiography, "QB: My Life Behind the Spiral" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), started out as a personal family history project.

The idea came one day when Young's 10-year-old son recounted a story he'd heard at school involving his father and former San Francisco great Joe Montana. But the story wasn't true, Young said, and he realized there was a "ton" that his four children didn't know about him.

That small episode sparked a long process that eventually led Young to connect with author Jeff Benedict, who then assisted the former Brigham Young University and NFL quarterback in writing and publishing a transparent and insightful 389-page narrative of his life.

Young admitted he was a "reluctant author" and not interested in using his story to entertain others, but only to benefit his family. Twice he declined to publish the manuscript before trusted friends persuaded him to just do it.

"I was really doing it to inform the children of what happened to dad. You are reading what I wanted my kids to know," Young said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News. "I trusted in a few people's opinions that the book was worthwhile. If something is useful (to others), I'm interested in that."

"QB" not only recounts Young's challenging and successful football career in great detail, but it also reveals how he suffered from separation anxiety from his childhood into his professional career. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Young also references notable experiences related to his LDS faith, such as why he didn't serve a mission, private meetings with apostles, taking part in a "60 Minutes" interview with then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, receiving priesthood blessings, wanting to find and marry his soul mate in the temple, living the church's health code and striving to be a positive example, among many others.

Young was never able to consistently write in a journal, although he started at least 15 volumes over the years.

"I would get worn out trying to relive my experiences. I needed to move forward. It was hard for me," he said.

As a result, Young's advice for journal-keepers is to jot down a few lines each day with just enough detail to recall what happened later and "fill in the blanks," he said.

In addition to Young's memories, Benedict filled in the blanks by interviewing teammates, coaches, friends and family members. The writer's efforts yielded many stories the quarterback had forgotten and was grateful to have, Young said.

Looking back, Young can acknowledge seeing the hand of the Lord in his life, especially through the many "angels," mentors and trusted friends who opened their hearts to him at pivotal times, particularly as he battled with anxiety, Young said.

When asked if he would change anything, Young said there were a lot of little things he might do differently in specific situations, but he wouldn't touch the big decisions, such as going to BYU or signing with the L.A. Express, he said.

His favorite part of the book comes near the end when he describes meeting his wife, Barb, getting married and starting a family.

"My kids will connect with the end because that's where they enter," Young said. "I wanted to connect my life before them with them. That's why the end is the most enjoyable part."

"QB," available at all the major bookstores and online, is full of never-before-shared stories. This is a small sample of things you may not know about Steve Young, taken from his "Life Behind the Spiral."

Got milk?

When Young was in high school, he made a major decision that served him the rest of his life.

The first time he showed up for a party, his teammates took him to the refrigerator and opened the door to show him a bottle of milk. "That's for you, Young," one of them said.

"I laughed. So did they. It became standard procedure for them to have milk on hand at every party I attended," Young wrote. "They never pressured me to drink. When my buddies held a beer-guzzling contest, I guzzled milk. It's the one contest I always lost. Apparently, it's a lot easier to guzzle beer than milk."

For the rest of his life, whenever Young was in a setting with alcohol, he drank milk. When the ad agency for the "Got Milk?" campaign learned about Young choosing milk over beer, he became the first athlete to appear on a poster with a milk mustache, according to the book.

Accident survivor

In April 1983, Young was preparing to fly home when his former bishop's wife asked if he would ride back to Connecticut with their daughter, Jill Simmons, so she didn't have to make the trip alone. Young agreed. She was like a little sister to him, he wrote.

After driving all night, they stopped for breakfast at McDonald's in Nebraska. Then Simmons took the wheel and Young fell asleep. A short time later, he awoke to see his friend slumped against the driver's side window. Then the vehicle swerved off the pavement and began to roll.

Young wasn't wearing a seat belt but was uninjured. Simmons died. While the quarterback carried the guilt of his friend's death for some time, he knows his survival was a miracle, and the memory served as motivation to live a good life.

"I felt like something was shielding me," Young wrote. "I asked myself: How are you going to live the rest of your life? I thought about the car repeatedly flipping over, and how I felt like I was floating in a pocket of air. And how miraculously, I was unscathed. I took this as a message — 'You've been spared, and you'd better figure out why.' I felt obligated to live my life in a way that would never dishonor that experience."

Special friendship

When the San Francisco 49ers traded Joe Montana to Kansas City in April 1993, Young's anxiety spiked. He worried that if he didn't deliver a Super Bowl victory, the fans would run him out of town.

To help Young get away from the pressure, a friend suggested he visit a place he'd never been — the Holy Land. Not only did Young have a spiritual experience touring key places in Jesus Christ's ministry, but he found friends for life in Truman and Ann Madsen, his hosts at Brigham Young University's Jerusalem Center. Truman Madsen, a gospel scholar, author and lecturer, was the center's director.

In the book's acknowledgments, Young thanked the Madsens for their spiritual guidance and friendship.

"Many of the bedrock testimonies that I hold dear were solidified as we walked the dusty roads of Israel together," Young wrote.

The feeling was mutual, said Barnard N. Madsen, who authored his father's biography, "The Truman G. Madsen Story." The Madsens became mentors and confidants to Young and welcomed him into their family like another son. They attended some of Young's NFL games and his wedding in the Kona Hawaii Temple. Truman Madsen provided Young with several priesthood blessings at key moments in his life and helped Young bless his babies. The two men spoke together once about their experiences in the Holy Land in what became a Deseret Book audio talk titled "The Philosopher and the Quarterback." Young often visited the Madsens in Provo and was at Truman's bedside shortly before he died in 2009. Young spoke at the funeral, Ann Madsen said.

Ann Madsen said Young has always been gracious and kind. He's been especially supportive since her husband's death.

"From the moment we met Steve, we've had a precious friendship that has persisted throughout our lives," Ann Madsen said. "There have been times since Truman died when Steve has been my wise friend in reminding me of the eternal covenants I have made."

Young and the Madsens both spoke of one memorable experience that wasn't included in Young's book. On one occasion some years ago, Young was invited to the Madsen home to meet former BYU basketball star and LDS convert, 6-foot-11 Croatian Kresimir Cosic. Young had never met the "giant, charismatic man," but shaking his massive hand and hearing him talk about the gospel in a thick Croatian accent was a wonderful and inspiring experience.

"Kresimir was a gem. He had such an interesting history and story," Young said. "His conversion and testimony were impactful to me."

Being an example

As one of the most recognized faces in the NFL and the LDS Church, Young never wanted to do anything to draw negative attention to himself or his faith.

"I always considered it a privilege that carried with it a responsibility to carry myself — both in public and private — in a way that inspired kids to work hard and treat people with respect," Young wrote. "I was also sensitive to the fact that I had so many Mormon youth looking up to me."

He turned down a $1 million a year offer to be a spokesman for Coca-Cola because the products are heavily caffeinated.

"I wanted to steer clear of endorsing products that had addictive properties," Young wrote. "My friends thought I was crazy for turning down $1 million."

Young was invited to appear in an episode of "Beverly Hills 90210." He reviewed the script and felt it had an inspiring storyline so he did it. Later, he passed on the chance to be Cameron Diaz's boyfriend (played by Brett Favre) in the film "There's Something About Mary."

"As funny as it was, I decided that some of the humor was a bit much for me, so I turned down the part," Young wrote.

If you go ...

What: Steve Young book signing

When: Tuesday, Oct. 25, noon-2 p.m.

Where: Deseret Book Flagship store, 45 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Note: The signing line is reserved for those who purchase books at Deseret Book. Book personalizations, posed photography and signing sports memorabilia will not be available.

Also ...

When: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 6-8 p.m.

When: Deseret Book, University Village (at University Mall), 1076 S. 750 East, Orem

Note: The signing line is reserved for those who purchase books at Deseret Book. Book personalizations, posed photography and signing sports memorabilia will not be available.

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone