Hall of Famer Steve Young has ‘full circle’ moment helping coach his daughters’ girls flag football team at Menlo School

Steve Young is helping his former 49ers teammate John Paye coach the new girls flag football team at Menlo School in Atherton, with both of his daughters on the team

ATHERTON, N.C. — This isn’t Steve Young’s first time coaching at Menlo School in Atherton, but it’s certainly the most important.

Young is working with John Paye, a former 49ers teammate, to help launch the school’s girls flag football program.

It’s an even more special opportunity for the Hall of Fame quarterback because both of his daughters, senior Summer and freshman Laila, are on the team.

“It’s been a little emotional because the game has meant so much to me,” said Young, a three-time Super Bowl winner. “It instills incredible values as well as a sense of teamwork and togetherness.” It’s one of the few games like it. Football, in some ways, runs America, and they are now included in that. That sense of belonging is very important to me.

“It’s been very emotional for me to see them get the chance to play the game.” They seem to be enjoying themselves.”

Girls flag football became an official California Interscholastic Federation sport in February, and schools throughout the Bay Area have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Summer Young was “ecstatic” about the inaugural season’s timing.

“This is the first year my sister and I are in the same school, so I was really happy that we could play together,” Summer explained. “This is a sport that I think every girl wishes they could play, so the fact that it’s actually a sport now is super awesome.”

Summer plays wide receiver, a position she has always wanted to play, while wearing her father’s number, 8.

“I think everyone expects me to be a quarterback,” Summer admitted. “But I think my speed is why they put me at wide receiver, and I wanted to play receiver.”

Last month, the North Coast Section began playing girls flag football in the East Bay, alongside other fall sports.

Meanwhile, the Central Coast Section, which extends from San Francisco to Monterey County, did not begin practices until August 21 and will not begin official games until Monday. However, scrimmages were permitted to begin this week, and Menlo and Woodside scheduled two back-to-back games in Atherton on Wednesday.

Games are played in two 22-minute halves, with a running clock for the first 20 minutes of each half, so both scrimmages lasted just under an hour. While Menlo used multiple quarterbacks on Wednesday, senior Mary Mahe was the starter.

Mahe grew up playing football with her older brothers, one of whom, Ryan, played for local powerhouse Serra, and has always loved the game, but she never imagined herself playing for her school.

Not only is she playing now, but she has a Pro Football Hall of Famer coaching her at the sport’s most important position, despite the fact that she wasn’t even born when Steve played for the 49ers.

“I looked up to him — my dad was a fan,” Mahe explained. “Even today, at the start of the game, I was rushing around and getting nervous.” ‘Find your peace,’ Coach Steve said as I approached the sideline. ‘Take your time, and find peace.'”

Young isn’t able to share that wise coaching advice at every Menlo practice because he still works full-time at his private equity firm, HGGC, but he coaches once or twice a week. Young described this as a “full circle” moment because he has previously coached with Paye at Menlo.

Young didn’t have a place to live near the 49ers’ headquarters, which was then at Red Morton Park in Redwood City, after being traded from the Buccaneers to the 49ers in 1987.

Paye, the third-string quarterback behind Young and starter Joe Montana, arranged for Young to stay in the guest room at his mother’s house in Atherton, which was just down the road. When the NFL players went on strike in the middle of 1987, Paye approached Young about coaching the girls’ basketball team.

“I did nothing,” Young exclaimed, laughing. “I just handed out towels or maybe gave a rah-rah speech, kind of like what I do here.”

That isn’t the case in football, especially since Paye is using concepts and verbiage from former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh’s playbook, which aids Young’s acclimatization even if he can’t attend every practice.

“We’re doing the same little playsets that we did with the 49ers,” Paye explained. “So we were like, ‘Oh yeah, that play.'” It helps to be on the same page when it comes to terminology. ‘Oh, Steve, we’ve got 22 Z-In.’ ‘OK, all right.'”

“With certain plays,” Young laughed, “John and I were like, ‘Well, how did we signal that?’ and we were arguing over what the signal was.”

Young’s presence drew extra attention to an otherwise routine scrimmage on Wednesday, with three local television stations making the trip to Atherton. From the sidelines of the scrimmage, he even made his weekly radio appearance with KNBR’s “Tolbert and Copes” afternoon show.

That radio interview came after the Young family’s most important moment of the day. With multiple defenders nearby, Mahe threw up a pass to Summer Young late in the first half of the first scrimmage. Summer jumped into the air, caught the pass, and took off down the field for a touchdown.

“The sun was shining in my eyes, but I kept telling myself, ‘Summer, you have to grab this, you have to get it,'” Summer explained.

“I just had to trust her,” Mahe added. Close your eyes and trust. When that happened, I thought, ‘That’s to the house.’ She has that one.”

From the sidelines, Steve Young witnessed his daughter’s scoring play.

“It was a lot of fun for her. “I was so excited because she’s the type of person who wants to do that,” he explained. “She’s just that person who wants to be great, and it was really entertaining to watch.”

Touchdowns are obviously exciting, but Young also mentioned another instance when his younger daughter Laila made a mistake.

“She’s almost in tears,” Young explained. “And that’s why I love football — they both need to experience both sides of that.”

The sport’s highs and lows excite us all. But there can also be joy in the mundane. It was the moment his daughters asked him to teach them how to throw a football, according to Young. Summer is giving her father something he hasn’t had before.

“It’s really special,” Summer remarked. “Football is a big part of his life, and I think he expected my brothers to play football, but they didn’t.”

“So this is his crowning achievement — his daughters are playing flag football.” It’s exciting for him as well as for us.”

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