George Young Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Patricia Traina

George Young, who helped direct the franchise out of its decade-plus Wilderness period during which the Giants languished at the bottom of the league, is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“George is certainly very deserving of being in the Hall of Fame,” said team president and chief executive officer John Mara. “My only regret is that he’s not around to enjoy this. 

"He took our organization from being in last place and not having a lot of respect around the league, to being a Super Bowl Champion. He made every football department in our organization more professional. 

"He changed the reputation and level of respect that our team had for the better. He improved us in so many different ways. He certainly is a very deserving Hall of Famer. Again, I only wish he could be around to enjoy this moment. It’s long overdue. All of us here are very happy that at long last, he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.”

The Giants hired Young on February 14, 1979, after he was recommended by then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle to help bridge the team management gap between co-owners Wellington and Tim Mara.

As part of the historic hire by the Giants, Wellington Mara, who for most of the franchise’s existence had the final say on all personnel matters, relinquished control to the new general manager, setting up the model that still exists in the franchise today.

Young spent 15 years as a high school teacher in the Baltimore City school system before being hired up by the legendary Don Shula, then with the Baltimore Colts, in 1968. When Shula moved to the Miami Dolphins, he brought Young with him as the team’s director of pro scouting.

With the Giants, Young hit the ground running in rebuilding the shattered franchise, rebuilding it through the draft. 

From 1979 to 1995, 119 of his draft picks made the final roster in some capacity. The impressive list of names included quarterback Phil Simms, Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, tight end Mark Bavaro, linebackers Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, and Gary Reasons, running back Joe Morris, offensive linemen Billy Ard, William Roberts, Jumbo Elliott, and Karl Nelson, defensive backs Terry Kinard, Mark Collins, and Perry Williams, defensive lineman Leonard Marshall, and receiver Lionel Manuel--all of whom helped restore glory to the franchise during the 1980s.

Young also had the smarts to promote Bill Parcells, the team’s defensive coordinator under Ray Perkins, Young’s first hire as the team’s head coach, to succeed Perkins after he left to become the head coach at the University of Alabama.  

Under Young’s direction, the Giants earned eight playoff berths, including Super Bowl championship titles in 1986 and 1990.

And Young, a modest man who didn’t much care for the spotlight, was named as the NFL Executive of the Year five times (1984, 1986, 1990, 1993 and 1997) during his tenure with the team.

 Young, who experienced health problems later in his Giants career, which in part led him to hire Ernie Accorsi, another NFL executive from Young’s past in Baltimore (and the man who succeeded Young), resigned his position after the 1997 season.

Young then went on to accept a newly created position in the league office as the Senior Vice President of Football Operations, a role he filled until just before his death on December 8, 2001.

“George’s legacy,” Wellington Mara would say following Young’s death, “is greater than two Super Bowls.’”

A beloved figure among the Giants beat writers of that era, the Giants chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America named their Good Guy award, given annually to the player who consistently exhibits outstanding cooperation in helping the media do its job, after Young in 2001.