Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said next Sunday's game against the Patriots when the 49ers retire his #8 jersey might be the biggest honor he's received during his post-NFL career.
"It's a tremendous honor," said Young. "One of my buddies called me today and I guess he saw it somewhere and he said it is probably the greatest honor of all and I understand why he said that. For all of the things that I've enjoyed and the accolades, this might be the best thing of all."
Young elaborated further on why this particular honor will stand out to him.
"Because this is your team," explained Young. "This is not the league. It's the guys you fought and played with and the heart and soul of who you really were and after all of your time and effort together that they would turn back to you and say 'You know what, we feel that your contribution was such that we are retiring your number.' That was a cool conversation I had with the 49ers and John (York)."
It's only fitting that #8, forever synonymous with Young, should be retired. Ironically, it's a number that Young originally disliked.
"My number was 14 all of my life. I loved #14, wore it in high school – baseball, basketball and football," said Young. "I had worn #8 in junior high because the coach just handed them out. I got to BYU and I had no pull, #14 was taken. I had worn #8 in junior high so I said I guess I'd just wear #8."
The 49ers honored Young back in 2005 after his Hall of Fame induction, but waited to retire the jersey until now. Young said John York called him this summer to discuss the team's plans, and that the New England game was chosen based on Young's schedule.
"There are some Sundays I'm here and some that I'm not," said Young, who travels some weekends for ESPN. "Plus, my wife is due with our fourth child in November so we needed to do it before then. The 49ers have been very accommodating to my schedule."
Young's schedule these days is as busy as ever, as evident by his afternoon phone conversation with local Bay Area reporters which was conducted as he picked up his kids from school.
Asked what his kids thought of dad's jersey being retired, Young first had to explain what it meant to his oldest son Braden.
"That's cool," Braden eventually said.
Young plans to have Braden and his entire family out for the event next weekend. He's also reaching out to some of his longtime 49ers teammates, including Junior Bryant, Derrick Deese, Brent Jones, and Tim McDonald.
He also looks forward to watching quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan playing next week against the Patriots.
"It's great – great story for JT O'Sullivan," said Young." I don't know what the future holds but he's certainly shown a wherewithal to handle the amazing dynamics of an NFL quarterback and what's demanded of you. I just hope that he builds on it. There's something to be said about kind of getting through that first level – whatever that is where you feel people have confidence in you that you can move the ball. It really builds on itself and so many times it becomes a snowball effect where if you continue to gain that confidence, pretty soon you are playing really good football. You can only hope that is what happens for him."
Young said he briefly spoke on the phone with O'Sullivan and plans to have a lengthier conversation with the 49ers starting quarterback in the next day or two.
"Keena Turner had called and wanted to get us together," said Young. "I appreciated that and was very willing to do that and I look forward to spending some time together."