"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly
proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of
God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the
eternal destiny of His children."
--1995 proclamation by church president Gordon B. Hinckley
The scene inside the huge tent under which the Steve Young
Charity Golf Classic awards ceremony was being held resembled
that of a typical big-jock fund-raiser. There was a sprawling
buffet, rows of white-tableclothed tables, a dozen autographed
jerseys, sets of shiny new golf clubs and scores of logoed
freebies from the companies endorsed by Young, the San Francisco
But the gathering, held on June 23 in the foothills of
snow-capped Mount Timpanogos south of Salt Lake City, was most
unlike a typical big-jock fund-raiser. There was no beer. No
liquor. No tanked-up players. There were kids. This could have
been the Von Trapp Tournament, so many children were scurrying
about. Two of Young's three brothers (he also has a sister) saw
to that. Mike, a 33-year-old emergency-room doctor in American
Fork, Utah, stood rocking Cade, his five-week-old son, while
Mike's wife, Shayne, and daughters, Taryn, 9, Andie, 6, and
Ellery, 3, completed the Rockwell painting. The other brother in
attendance, Tom, 27, who runs Steve's charitable Forever Young
Foundation, worked the room with his wife, Stacy, and daughter,
Sydney, 10 months.
The day was perfectly Mormon: Families together, BYU friends
reunited, $80,000 raised for a good cause. Steve, the M.C.,
played the witty host on the wireless mike. He made the most
pedestrian of former BYU teammates sound like All-Americas and
zinged a few buddies with G-rated cracks. He saved one PG rip
for a man who wasn't in the crowd. "By the way," said Steve, in
the middle of a basketball riff, "somebody tell Dennis Rodman he
can stick it." The crowd, irritated by Rodman's anti-Mormon
remarks during the NBA Finals, cheered wildly. "I can say that,
can't I?" Young added meekly, as if embarrassed to have spoken
badly of another person.
The pristine scene lacked one element. Two, really. A wife for
Steve Young. And children for Steve Young. This is a
particularly touchy time personally and professionally for
Young, who turns 36 in October. Age has become his archenemy.
His relationship with fiancee Aimee Baglietto is on the rocks,
four months after their wedding was called off and a year after
he fell in love with her. This is the second time Young nuptials
have been scrubbed. The first cancellation came in 1984 when
Young, then playing for the USFL's Los Angeles Express, got cold
Young, a devout Mormon, is determined to marry in the faith and
before his football career ends, but the numbers and the clock
are against him. There are but 4.8 million Mormons in the U.S.
According to Thomas Holman, associate professor of family
science at BYU, the average Mormon woman marries at 21. With the
divorce rate of temple-married Mormons at one fifth the normal
U.S. divorce rate of one in every two marriages, the pool of
single women from which Young might choose is microscopic. "You
see my problem, don't you?" he says wryly.
Young is nearing a football crossroads, too, after a 1996 season
marred by a pulled groin, two concussions and three broken ribs.
Sources close to Young, who is embarking on his 14th pro season,
say he is on the verge of signing a $6 million-a-year deal. The
49ers didn't show much long-term faith in him on draft day,
however, choosing a quarterback, Virginia Tech's Jim
Druckenmiller, in the first round for the first time since 1967,
when they selected Steve Spurrier. Young says he is pain-free,
and postseason neurological tests showed no spots on his brain
indicating excessive bruises from the concussions. Still, San
Francisco chose Druckenmiller as a long-term insurance policy
for the man who missed all or part of seven of its 18 games last
Young's public and private worlds are inextricably tied. He
won't be specific about what went wrong between him and
Baglietto, though he did say he is trying to patch things up
with her. Last summer during training camp in Rocklin, Calif.,
Young was so smitten by Baglietto, a 25-year-old senior at BYU,
that he said to a teammate who had sneaked out of camp one
night, "Give me your blueprint. I've got to see Aimee." The
couple set March 8 as the wedding date. They registered for
gifts at Williams-Sonoma. But the relationship grew rocky last
winter. A hundred rumors flew as to why, from Baglietto's not
being devout enough for Young to their simply growing apart.
Young says now, "We're trying to work it out. You grow and learn."
At his tournament Young reiterated that he aches to be married
and to have at least one child before he finishes playing.
"That's my goal, and I'm determined that it will come true," he
said, sitting in the shade of a young evergreen by the 18th tee.
"Even if he or she is an infant and doesn't remember [seeing me
play], I want it to happen. I want it so bad."
When we last saw Steve Young, he was wincing. On the sidelines
during the Jan. 4 NFC semifinal at Green Bay, Young tried over
and over to block out the pain of his broken ribs, one of which
was dislocated. Even with a painkilling injection from team
medics, he couldn't. After two ineffective series with Young
calling signals, the 49ers replaced him with Elvis Grbac, who
played miserably in the Wisconsin muck. The Packers routed the
Niners 35-14 and went on to win the Super Bowl. "They said the
shot would numb the area, but that one out-of-place rib kept
killing me," Young says. "Every time I threw I felt like I was
getting stabbed in the back."
The first weeks of the off-season were a time of recuperation.
The cobwebs in Young's head went away. His groin felt fine, and
his ribs were completely healed by March. "Everyone wants to
talk about my age," he says, "but the fact is, every time in my
career I've ever had an injury, three weeks later I was fine."
Once he felt fit, Young set out to do what he does every
off-season: good deeds. He began to raise money for recreation
and learning centers for seriously ill patients at two
children's hospitals, one in Salt Lake City and another in Palo
Alto, Calif. Young appeared on the Children's Miracle Network
Telethon in May. He worked for the Salt Lake City Olympic
Organizing Committee (the Winter Games will be in Utah in 2002).
For the 10th year in a row, he went to Arizona to visit Native
American tribes, under the auspices of American Indian Services,
a nonprofit organization that helps send Native American kids to
college. In conjunction with American Indian Services, Young
raises money for more than 500 college scholarships annually and
funds an antidrug program for the Navajo and Hopi nations.
During this year's trip to the Navajo and Hopi reservations, he
talked about why he liked working with the tribes. "People don't
realize what I get out of it," he said. "I take things from
these people. I've learned that happiness doesn't necessarily
come from intriguing urban lifestyles, although I'm not saying
you can't be happy in a city. I've met people who've lived in
thatched huts with dirt floors and no electricity their entire
lives, and they've had fantastic lives. They don't long for
During a stop at Ganado High on the Navajo Reservation, students
feted Young with a dance. The scene was cheerful; the tribe had
even raised enough money to build a football stadium, complete
with artificial turf, at the school. By contrast, the next stop,
Hopi High on the Hopi Reservation, was depressing. When Young
rose to speak to students in the auditorium, the audience was
disrespectfully noisy, and his antidrug and stay-in-school
speech, which he delivers at all the schools he visits, drew
scoffs. "When these kids graduate," said Hopi High counselor
Gary Clark, "half will try to get jobs. Half will drink."
The Hopis are entangled in a border dispute with Navajos who
surround them. The Hopis have little potable water; most
drinking water comes in bottles. "God. How can they have hope?"
Young said as he left Hopi High. "What's here for them? An
inner-city kid growing up in New York has a much better chance
to succeed than these kids. It's a shame. That's why education
is so crucial. They'll go nowhere without it. The [American
Indian Services] scholarship program is essential for these kids
to have a chance."
On the trip, a week after the April 19 NFL draft, Young hadn't
yet been to a 49ers minicamp this year, and he was skeptical
about what the San Francisco management had done to shore up the
weaknesses that had become apparent last season. The Niners had
promised him they would retool his line so he wouldn't get as
beaten up as he had in 1996, when he was sacked 34 times.
However, San Francisco had drafted no offensive linemen and had
signed only one as a free agent, Kevin Gogan, a 32-year-old
journeyman guard who last season played for the Oakland Raiders.
The 49ers had stressed to Young how Steve Mariucci, the man who
had replaced forced-out coach George Seifert, could take a
quarterback drafted in the middle rounds and groom him over the
next several years to be Young's successor; then they had chosen
Druckenmiller in round 1. Finally, they hadn't addressed their
dire need for a good cornerback. Young was disheartened. "I wish
I knew what they were doing," he said then.
By the end of June, however, Young's professional clouds were
lifting. "I'm not being a Pollyanna about it," he said, "but
I've been to three minicamps, and I was really energized by
them. I love what I saw in [free-agent running back] Garrison
Hearst. I think with him and Terry Kirby we could have the best
backfield we've had in a while. Every lineman seems bigger and
stronger. [Tackles] Harris Barton and Kirk Scrafford are both
about 300. [Guards] Ray Brown and Kevin Gogan are about 315 and
330, and [center] Chris Dalman's 300. And now we've got
[cornerback] Rod Woodson [whom the 49ers signed for $5.1 million
over three years]. What a boost for our secondary."
Druckenmiller will need at least two years to learn the West
Coast offense. Meanwhile, Mariucci, Brett Favre's day-to-day
tutor in Green Bay from 1992 to '95, will try to hide Young
behind the bigger line, restrain him from scrambling and turn
Hearst into a running-catching back in the Roger Craig mold. San
Francisco also plans to throw deeper, which will make wide
receiver Jerry Rice happier. "I love what we're doing," Rice
said at Young's tournament. "And it helps that I've really found
a comfort level with Steve."
In six seasons together Rice and Young have combined for more
completions a game (6.0) than Rice and Joe Montana (5.1) did in
their six seasons together. Rice and Young also have hooked up
for more touchdowns (72) than did Rice and Montana (59). The
perception is that Montana was worlds better than Young is.
Considering only Super Bowls won, the perception is
correct--Montana leads 4-1. But compare their stats as 49ers:
Young has a better winning percentage (.725 to .719),
touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.5:1 to 2:1) and quarterback
rating (102.3 to 93.5). He has done all this despite having a
team around him that isn't as good as the one that surrounded
Montana. "If I never took another snap, I think I've taken my
place among the good quarterbacks," Young said at his
tournament. "But I think I have to win another championship.
Otherwise people will always be able to say, He's got the
numbers, but he only won one title."
Young grew pensive pondering his future. "The thing that keeps
me young is the constant quest for perfection," he said. "I saw
Joe go for it. It kept him young. It keeps me young. I think I'm
in mid-career, but I have no idea how long I can play. Jerry and
I are pushing the envelope of how long guys can play at a top
level, regardless of age. Times are changing in sports. Look at
the NBA. Look at the elite athletes playing in their
mid-30s--Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Karl Malone, all
thirtysomething and not playing below the standard they've set.
I understand the team being skeptical about older players, but I
don't put much stock in age. I know how I feel."
"Physically, Steve's obviously in great shape," Gary Plummer,
his friend and a 49ers linebacker, said at the tournament. "But
mentally he's in even better shape. Last year, George Seifert
would be behind him in practice, saying, 'Throw it! Throw it!'
Now Steve Mariucci lets him make his play and then slaps him on
the back. He needs that. He knows what to do. He doesn't need
That pressure comes from other places, like the golf course on
this hot day at his event. In the Mormon world Young's private
life is quite important. "He's like British royalty in England,"
says his agent, Leigh Steinberg. "There's tremendous pressure on
Steve to marry in the faith."
"Well, Steve," said Vic Ayers, a Salt Lake businessman and a
friend of Young's, as the two stood on the 18th tee, "are you
going to tell us what happened with the wedding or not? Why's it
"Vic," Young said with a smile, "it's all about compatibility."
The subject hung there for a moment. The polite thing would have
been for someone to talk about how impossible it would be to
make par on this hole, not how Young and Baglietto had called
off their wedding. One of the other golfers said, "Well, Steve
just wants to make sure he makes the right choice."
Off to the side, another player said, in a quieter voice, as
though he wasn't sure if this was the right thing to say, "Jeez,
Brigham Young had 14 wives."
The foursome hit their shots and left the tee. "I felt that
weight for so many years," Young said later. "I used to be all
uptight about it. Not anymore. I've been through so many
relationships. I'm almost like the relationship guru. The easy
thing would have been to get married in college, but I believe
in meeting the right person. Obviously, fame and the Mormon
faith aren't that compatible, and it's been tough. But I think
it'll happen. I have faith that it will."
The foothills were silent for a minute, except for the call of a
loud bird. Young was asked if he ever stared at the ceiling and
thought about being lonely.
"If I'm honest with myself, yeah," he said. "I want to be
married and have kids. I want it a lot."