Young played college football for the University of TexasLonghorns before turning professional. As a college junior, he was one of three finalists for the 2005 Heisman Trophy, finishing second to Reggie Bush and ahead of Matt Leinart in the final vote. Young was named the best college football player of 2005 by College Football News, based upon their statistical analysis. Following the Heisman voting, Young led his team to a BCS National Championship on January 4, 2006 in a classic thriller against the defending BCS national champion University of Southern CaliforniaTrojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl. The game featured two Heisman Trophy winners as Young's opponents: both USC quarterback Matt Leinart and USC running back Reggie Bush. The game was called one of the most-anticipated games in the history of college football. In perhaps the most spectacular individual college football performance ever, Young completed 75% of his passes for 267 yards and also managed to run for more yards than Bush; he totaled 200 yards at 10 yards a carry.
Young decided he would forgo his last year of NCAA college eligibility and become a professional player by entering the 2006 NFL Draft. This decision made him the second player in Longhorn coach Mack Brown's eight year term as head coach of the Texas Longhorns to enter the NFL with eligibility remaining.