The name of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young's father is LeGrande Young. But he is commonly known by his nickname, "Grit," defined in the dictionary as a noun: firmness of character; indominatable spirit. Never mind that Steve has done a lot with his own name, he’s a bit envious of his dad’s.
“I’ve always loved that nickname," he said. "I always wished it was my nickname. I could have been something with that nickname, you know?”
What did Grit do with that name? He taught his kids how to live up to it — mainly by example.
One day, when Grit was as a middle-aged father of five children, a guy at the gym challenged him to a sit-up competition. Grit's competitive juices started to flow. He held nothing back. After about nine months and reaching 1,100 sit-ups each, his fellow challenger finally quit.
“You got the crown!” he told Grit. But it didn’t end there; the competition with himself was just beginning. Years later, he could do 10,000 sit-ups in a row, and he finally reached his personal satisfaction point and ended his daily three-hour sit-up routine.
Grit’s advice to other dads? “Well, one of the things we’ve got to do is teach them to do hard things — especially in this day and age with all the conveniences of life. It is critical that we teach kids how to work,” Grit said.
As a corporate attorney, he could have provided all his family needed. But Grit made sure his kids knew that if they wanted something, they were going to have to work for it.
“I kept telling them I didn’t have anything and if they wanted something they had to work, and I made sure they had a job — not working for me, because that’s the easy way out, but working for somebody else,” he said.
For years, his kids had a paper route. Each worked in succession, from oldest to youngest, rain or shine. Steve said the lesson he learned was “If you really wanted to get something done, if you really want something it’s going to be some work. And don’t be afraid of that and go get it done.”
Even now, Grit works hard maintaining a meticulous garden that his wife, Sherry, said never has a weed in it.
“He grew a garden of a wonderful family — and now he’s growing a garden of vegetables and they both make him happy,” Sherry said. “He gets great joy at delivering those products and sharing the harvest with his friends.”
Stick With It
His dad never missed a day of work and Steve never missed a day of school. Coincidence? More likely a lesson of commitment that was passed from father to son.
Steve said they were told they could play the sport of their choice, but once they signed up, there was no turning back.
He tried to challenge that when he first started playing for BYU. Discouraged, homesick and feeling like “just a big tackling dummy for the defense,” Steve called his dad and said, “I think I’d like to come home.”
Grit’s principle hadn’t changed. He replied, “OK, Steve, you can quit. But you can’t come home!”
With nowhere else to go, Steve stayed and took the tough road and stayed at BYU — right to the NCCAA Football Hall of Fame and eventually to the NFL Football Hall of Fame —breaking record after record along the way in what turned out to be a phenomenal football career.
“When things are hard and you’re young, a lot of times you’re looking for exit doors,” Steve said. “There are no exits unless you open it up. So you have to have the will to never open up one that you’re not sure is the right thing.”
Because of the influence of his father Grit, instead of looking for ways out, Steve’s focus became figuring out how good he could get.
“The best thing a dad can do is to put me in a situation to have a chance to find out how good I can get, and give me that stuff to find out, because otherwise you exit stage left along the way and you never find out,” Steve said.
To hear the rest of Steve's story, tune in for "Grit: The True Story of Steve Young" on KSL-TV Saturday at 4 p.m.
Kevin Doman is the co-founder of Homesports.com, a company he runs with his father and brothers. Homesports is committed to accentuating the positive principles and genuine values gained from sports.