NEW YORK, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Hall of
Fame Coach Don Shula were among those saluting the late George Young, who died Saturday night after a brief illness. He was 71.
Best known for transforming the New York Giants from nearly two decades of futility into a two-time Super Bowl champion as general manager, Young was named an NFL executive of the year an
unprecedented five times, worked as a director of personnel with the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins and was a high school history teacher in his native Baltimore.
After serving as general manager of the Giants for 19 years, Young appointed Ernie Accorsi as his successor and became senior vice president of football operations for Tagliabue in February
Tagliabue issued the following statement on Sunday morning:
"George Young was in essence a teacher -- both in the history class and in football -- who helped people at all levels. He was tough and honest, a plain-talking people person who had no time for phonies, egos, or slackers. He liked to remind us of the importance of respecting the 'little fish' because they grow up to be the 'big fish.' Those of us who considered him a highly respected colleague and close friends will miss him both
professionally and personally.
"No one cared more about the game of football than George Young. He loved it and lived it for his entire life. He was the quintessential football guy who had the unique ability to be at
home in the locker room, board room or any room in his beloved Baltimore. His contributions to our sport place him in rare company with the legends of the game."
Young was hired as Giants general manager in 1979 after the famed franchise hit bottom with a seventh straight losing season. He drew flak almost immediately after using his initial first-round draft pick on little-known quarterback Phil Simms out of Morehead State.
Eight years later, Simms won most valuable player honors while leading New York to its first Super Bowl victory.
Young also took linebacker Lawrence Taylor with the second overall pick in the 1981 draft and the Giants reached the playoffs later that year for the first time in 19 seasons. He fortified the team's nucleus by drafting running back Joe
Morris, linebacker Carl Banks and tight end Mark Bavaro.
When Coach Ray Perkins left to succeed Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama following the 1982 season, Young hired unheralded Bill Parcells as his replacement.In 1986, the Giants went 14-2, rolled through the NFC playoffs and crushed Denver, 39-20, in Super Bowl XXI.
A trade for running back Ottis Anderson and draft picks Jeff Hostetler, Rodney Hampton, Erik Howard, Pepper Johnson and Mark Collins helped the Giants to a second Super Bowl title after the 1990 season.
Late in his New York tenure, Young helped ease the transition to another Super Bowl contender by drafting defensive stalwarts Jessie Armstead, Michael Strahan and Jason Sehorn.
Young played one year in the NFL with the Dallas Texans in 1950.
He went on to work for the Colts in 1969 and was offensive line coach on the team that won Super Bowl V. After working as director of player personnel with the Colts, Young joined the
Dolphins in 1974 as director of personnel and pro scouting and became close friends with Shula. Young later served with Shula on the NFL's competition committee.
"George Young went from a high school history teacher and football coach to one of the most powerful men in the NFL," Shula said in a statement. "His counsel was sought by everyone
in the league, and he was respected by coaches, administrators and owners alike.
"When we served as co-chairmen of the NFL's competition committee, his priority was always to make the game as safe as possible, without losing any of its excitement. He was dedicated to the success of the league and its teams, and made
so many contributions to the sport, whether it was working with the Colts, Dolphins or Giants, or in the league office. He will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him."
Young began a coaching career in the Baltimore school system at Calvert Hall and City College High School and over a 15-year span won six Maryland state championships. He was an educator
while coaching in Baltimore, teaching history and political science.
He is survived by his wife, Helen Love Young.