Kenny Young takes winning combination to NFL’s Ravens
Every year when NFL camps open, there are between 35-40 players who prepped in the Greater Metro New Orleans area on NFL rosters. This year, the list may expand a bit as many as 10 additional players who sharpened their craft at high school stadiums on Friday evenings in the Big Easy will attempt to make their marks in the league as rookies.
One of those 10 players is former UCLA and John Curtis linebacker Kenny Young, the 16th former Patriot to make it to the NFL and the fifth linebacker joining Mike Stonebreaker, Duke Riley, Gregg DuBroc and Tony Bua. The growth on the road to becoming a Baltimore Ravens draft choice helped him achieve his NFL dream.
Young enjoyed a stellar career with the Bruins, earning All-PAC 12 honors this past season. Also an Honorable Mention All Academic performer in the conference, he recorded 110 tackles in 2017 to lead the Bruins defense. Young finished his days on the west coast as the 11th best tackler in UCLA history with over 300 career stops.
An All State performer for the Patriots, Young considered LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, UCLA, Nebraska, Tulane, ULL and Mississippi State for his college options. His cousins are former LSU standouts Alfred Blue and Dillon Gordon, so ties were strong to there.
“It came down to LSU, Texas A&M and UCLA. Throughout the process, I was looking for a program that matches my values and work ethic. If you can place yourself within an institution that matches that, it’s great,” Young explained. “UCLA football-wise, academically, socially and networking was there. I was putting more eggs in different baskets than if I had gone anywhere else. Football ends at some point. UCLA is a great platform to start off with networking opportunities, friendships and relationships.”
Young , whohelped John Curtis capture three state titles, was a 4 star prospect in 2014 along with Leonard Fournette, Speedy Noil, Will Clapp, Malachi Dupre, Gerald Willis, Steven Dunbar and Darrel Williams from the greater New Orleans area. Playing for legendary coach J.T. Curtis, Young learned life lessons.
“What I appreciate most about the championships was holding up the trophies, but also the relationships that I built, the work ethic I learned, the drive and those hard practices that Coach J.T. had us doing. The championships were the icing on the cake. It was an accumulation of being around good people who want to push you harder than you will push yourself and with people that want to see you succeed,” said Young.
Iron sharpens iron, and those hard practices included future NFL players Duke Riley and Malachi Dupre among others.
“Duke is where I want to be (NFL). We pushed each other at Curtis and got to be where we are now. We pushed each other through those practices. We share some memorable times,” Young recalled with a wide smile.
At UCLA, Young started at inside linebacker for four seasons. He is very active, playing with good leverage, range and closing speed to the ball. Young plays the game with a lot of heart.
“It’s what (playing for) Curtis taught me. It’s everything that I’ve got. You have to have heart to play this game. You pour it out into something that you love. You play with passion,” Young said.
He considers himself a true student of the game, displaying good anticipation thanks to preparation and a high football IQ. “It’s my natural knack for the ball. I feel my speed and athleticism are other qualities. I can see a play developing before it happens. That’s what UCLA taught me,” Young explained analytically. “I think college football has been easier than high school football. There are many equations. If you can figure it out, the game gets easier.”
In the modern NFL, linebackers must be able to defend against the pass. Young faced eventual first round NFL picks Sam Darnold (Jets) and Josh Rosen (Cardinals) as well as Washington State’s Luke Falk who was taken in the later rounds by the Titans. Future draftees like Washington’s Jake Browning also challenged Young. “You look at those guys. Those are the Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Kirk Cousins types. I also played against Marcus Mariota (while at Oregon). They all play the game shoulders-up. It has helped prepare me for the transition to the NFL. I got a head start.”
Former UCLA teammate Josh Rosen was taken No. 10 overall by the Cardinals. As someone who was tested regularly on the practice fields by the new Arizona franchise quarterback, Young feels Rosen will arrive at NFL camp with a chip on his shoulder. “He’s going to be the QB who will have the greatest success out of all the QB’s picked in this draft. His shoulders, football IQ are both very, very high. He takes it to another level. Physically he can throw in tight windows. He can read coverages. The thing that is going to set him apart is his brain.”
Young made it clear he thinks Rosen is a leader of men.
“Josh has proven he is a mature quarterback. He’s going to compete for four quarters and win,” Young stressed. “Our lockers were close to one another. I helped him with how to handle himself off the field. He’s a winner.”
The first step in the next stage of Young’s own promising career began with the Ravens grabbing him in the fourth round with the 122nd overall selection. He is excited about the opportunity to following in the footsteps of his favorite player who happens to be a Ravens legend.
“I try to model my game after Ray Lewis although I can’t do everything he can do. If I can do some of the things that he did, with the hunger he possessed and that heart he played with though? He wasn’t the biggest, but he got everybody playing at a higher level.”
Young’s actions and words fit together well. No one should bet against him.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…