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Bucs, Young and ice cream

The frozen treats epitomize the generosity of the QB during his dog days in Tampa Bay.

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


TAMPA -- One of Steve Young's most enduring personality traits was typified by a pregame ritual he shared with his Bucs teammates in 1985 and '86.

A year after the United States Football League suspended play and pay of his $40-million contract, and long before his glory days in San Francisco, Young would gather with the receivers and tight ends on the eve of games.

Joining the likes of Jimmie Giles, Jerry Bell, Gerald Carter, Kevin House and Calvin Magee, Young and the guys would venture out for a special treat.

Bern's? Donatello? Malio's?

Hardly.

In an old convertible Cadillac that belied his wealth, Young and the guys would go to McDonald's for ice cream.

"I always wondered what a guy like him was doing with an old car like that," said Magee, now an assistant coach at South Florida. "More than anything, he was a great person ... just a regular old person."

The NFL legacy of Young, who retired Monday, will consist of the impossible plays and electric efficiency he displayed on the field as a San Francisco 49er. His legacy as a Bucs quarterback will be woven with the friendships he made off the field, not the desperate days he spent scrambling for victories at Tampa Stadium.

"The thing I'll remember most was that here was a guy who was a real guy, nothing flashy," former Bucs linebacker and current sports radio host Scot Brantley said. "Steve Young was as much a great person as he was a great football player. He's the guy you want your daughter to marry."

The Young retrospectives on television these past few days have included all the necessary highlights: his miraculous 49-yard touchdown scramble against Minnesota in 1988, the jubilation after throwing six touchdown passes against San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX, the game-winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens against Green Bay with 8 seconds left in the 1998 wild-card game.

His Bucs days are just a footnote, but not for Magee, who had his best season with Young behind center. Not for Giles, who was convinced Young could have been an NFL running back. And not for Bell, who recalls a quarterback who didn't get enough help from his offensive line.

"What I remember when he was here is that he was very athletic, but he was kind of thrown into the lions den," Bell said. "He didn't really have the protection up front."

Brantley believes without the tribulations in Tampa Bay, there would have been no tribute in San Francisco on Monday. "Everyone has adversity in life," Brantley said. "The difference is how you take it and handle it. Maybe it was his destiny to be a great player, but I think it never happens without what he went through here."

The former Bucs who played with Young can only wonder what the team of the mid-'80s would have been like if it had the kind of support system guiding the current Bucs. Perhaps Young would have been able to turn the franchise around if he had Tony Dungy as coach or Rich McKay as general manager.

"When he was here with us, the system was not tailored to the things he did," said Giles, now an Allstate insurance agent in Carrollwood. "If we had a system that resembled the one the Bucs have now, he would have been perfect. Back then, everyone wanted the classic drop-back quarterback ... now everyone wants to get the elusive quarterback like Steve."

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