“If you don’t want to be better and have a better future for yourself, then you just gotta question your mindset.” -Perry Young, 2020 NFL Draft prospect
One torn ACL, two all-American Athletic Conference first-team bids, and three pre-draft snubs. Cincinnati linebacker Perry Young has overcome, thrived, and yet still has reason to perform with a massive chip on his shoulder as the 2020 NFL Draft approaches.
Committing to the University of Cincinnati in 2016 over the likes of Tulane and Arkansas State, Young was one of the only true freshmen from his class to see the field for the Bearcats, starting his collegiate career as a safety. As a true freshman, Young tallied up 24 tackles and a tackle and a half for loss before taking on a full time starting job in 2017.
Young began to blossom as a sophomore with the Bearcats, starting as their weakside linebacker after moving down to the second level of the defense. All he did in his first season as a starter was finish second in tackles for the UC defense. Heading into his junior season, Young became poised to put his name on the radar.
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On the path to putting together a solid junior season in 2018, disaster struck with four games remaining as Young suffered a torn ACL. After never suffering a significant injury throughout the entirety of his career growing up, he now had to sit out the most significant part of his college career.
“That was a life changing thing, football has been a big part of my life growing up… when that happened, it struck me in a good way because it made me understand the value of football… It made me want to go after a lot of things even harder, not take anything for granted, and be a better person, a better leader, and a better football player.”
Not only did Young still get the first team All-AAC nod at linebacker in only eight games in 2018, but he stuck to his word to work even harder and not take the game for granted. Despite tearing his ACL just nine months prior, Young was suited up and in the starting lineup when the Bearcats took the field at the end of August in their week one victory over UCLA.
Yet despite overcoming such a gruesome injury, despite stuffing the stat sheet in 2019 with 46 solo tackles, eight tackles for loss, a sack, and two interceptions, and despite being named as a back-to-back first team all-conference linebacker, Young did not receive attention from the pre-draft circuits that he deserved. The versatile Cincinnati linebacker watched as guys he had competed with and against got their Shrine Bowl invites, their Senior Bowl invites, and their NFL Scouting Combine invites while he did not.
“Guys like me, they try to spite my height and size. I try to not let that bother me, I just try to use that as ammunition… if other people won’t give me chances, then I’ll take any little opportunity that I can to prove individuals wrong.”
Unfortunately for Young, the COVID-19 outbreak has been cutting those opportunities short, canceling his pro day at Cincinnati. He is adapting, however, and completed his virtual pro day just last week in Birmingham, Alabama.
If NFL teams needed any further verification that Young has completely recovered from his ACL injury than playing all 14 games for the Bearcats in 2019, he ran a blazing 4.5 40 yard dash at this pro day. He did not disclose to me any further times or jumps from the rest of his pro day, but it would appear there are no lingering health effects to Young’s knee.
Obviously Young has a big enough chip on his shoulder from being snubbed, to recovering from a serious knee injury, but his biggest motivation? A fear of failure.
“Having the fear of letting your parents down who did all they can to give you opportunities, all these mentors that help you and guide you. When you are running the stadium and you you get to the top of the stadium and have time to think ‘wow, I have come this far.’”
As the NFL transitions to a speed and spread oriented league, teams are looking for more versatile hybrids who can cover well down the field without compromising their run defense. A former safety who converted to linebacker in Perry Young could be their guy as he can play as a box safety, a nickel and dime backer, and as a weakside linebacker.
He is striving to get better each and every day; that is a man NFL teams will want on their squad. Flying under the radar, Perry Young has the chip on his shoulder, the hunger to succeed, and the athletic ability and versatility to thrive at the next level; with the Cincinnati defender you are never getting a finished product.