The recent signings of a pair of all-time Longhorns to backup roles with NFL teams came with a strong sense of what might have been for two guys firmly etched on the Mt. Rushmore of Texas football.
Less than two weeks after Vince Young closed a deal to be Mike Vick's backup in Philadelphia, Ricky Williams agreed to a contact today with the Baltimore Ravens where he'll bring a veteran presence in backing up starter Ray Rice.
The moves are good financially -- one year for up to $5.5 million for VY, two years and potentially $4 million for Ricky) -- and they get both players away from teams that didn't want them any more. Still, it's hard to process that the gridiron freak of all time in VY, approaching what should be his theoretical prime, is on a 1 yr free agent contract as a backup. He's made a living off of proving people wrong so this could be a temporary gig before seizing the spotlight once again.
Regardless of what happens for the rest of Young's pro career, he'll always be our Superman, gliding into the end zone on fourth-and-five to bring home the national title. But after getting jobbed in Tennessee, he's now relegated to sitting behind Vick. On the optimistic end, Andy Reid & Co. could revive VY the way they resurrected Vick, then sign a long term deal with another team. Or win over Philly if Vick gets hurt. On the other end of the spectrum, he's a one-year insurance policy looking at a long string of backup roles.
Williams' pro days have been dotted with self-inflicted wounds - the misfit years with Ditka in New Orleans being humped like a rented mule behind a bad OL, the suspensions in Miami, and finally early "retirement" - but at 34, he's stuck around longer than many critics thought and now has a legitimate shot at 10,000 career yards. He currently stands at 9,565 and should provide the Ravens with a bruising change of pace for the smaller Rice.
It's tough to watch these legends who brought us so much joy wearing burnt orange struggle in various ways on the professional level. But the story of Young and Williams also emphasizes that in the NFL, there's no such thing as a sure thing. It's a man's game and there's a bunch of bad dudes from Savannah State and Middle Tennessee that want your job.