In April of 1983, when Steve Young was a star quarterback at Brigham Young University, he miraculously survived a deadly car crash that took the life of a close family friend. The experience changed his life forever.
The semester had just ended, and Young was planning to fly home to Connecticut to visit his parents. But then he got a call from Bonne Simmons, his former bishop’s wife, who expressed concern about her daughter Jill driving home alone. She asked if Young would drive home with her daughter instead of fly.
“The Simmons family was like my second family,” he says. “Jill was like a little sister.”
Another student joined them at the last minute, and the three of them began the road trip with Young taking the first shift.
"I drove through the night, and when we got to Nebraska in the morning, we switched," Young recalls. With Simmons now driving, Young quickly fell asleep in the front passenger seat.
But soon he awoke to the sensation of bumping—Simmons was slumped against the car window and they were careening across the highway median.
"I grabbed the wheel, but the front end of the car dug in the ground. The car flipped three or four times and then landed on its wheels," he says. “I wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and there weren’t any airbags, but I felt like something was protecting me. I don't know how to explain it. I didn't have a scratch."
The student in the backseat was seriously hurt but conscious. Simmons, however, was unresponsive. Young climbed through a broken window and pulled her out of the car. When he realized she wasn't breathing, he immediately began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while a passerby called for help. Young also administered a priesthood blessing.
An ambulance finally arrived—30 minutes later. "We were in the middle of nowhere," Young explains.
Parmedics quickly loaded Simmons into the ambulance. A police officer gave Young a ride to the hospital where the star quarterback received devastating news: Simmons had died.
"There are certain things you hear about, but you don't understand unless you go through it," says Young. "I really struggled with that sense of responsibility—going home to talk to Bonne without Jill there."
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Young's survivor's guilt has faded with time, and he's come to accept that he did everything in his power to save his friend. But because of this tragic experience, he feels driven to honor Jill's memory by living an exemplary life. In a way, he says, she's his "guardian angel."
"Jill was spunky. If I was doing something or saying something she didn’t like, she’d say, “Come on, Steve, you can do better. Whenever I was tired or didn’t want to keep going, I’d ask myself, What would Jill say? I've felt her close to me, and that's really helped me through the years."
He adds, "The experience has helped me live life with more meaning and be a more Christlike person."