Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

Po­tomac foot­ball coach Ron­nie Crump had been try­ing to con­vince col­lege re­cruiters that they should pay more at­ten­tion to Tavon Young. Tow­son of­fered Young a schol­ar­ship, but no other school had, and Crump said the process was like pulling teeth.

When Crump took Young to a Tem­ple foot­ball camp the sum­mer before the player’s se­nior year, he hoped the cor­ner­back would do enough to stand out among 600 kids. Crump watched Young set­tle in with the rest of the de­fen­sive backs, then left to see an­other one of his Thurs­day, 8:25 p.m. TV: NFL Net­work, Ch. 11 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 10 IN­SIDE: Flacco says his me­chan­ics weren’t prob­lem vs. Steel­ers play­ers.

“By the time I got back to that side where the de­fen­sive backs and wide receivers were, all I heard about was Tavon Young,” Crump said. “He ba­si­cally shut down ev­ery re­ceiver that coaches were look­ing at. Two days later, he got the [Tem­ple] schol­ar­ship of­fer.”

The op­por­tu­ni­ties haven’t al­ways come im­me­di­ately for Young, but he’s wasted no time in seiz­ing them when they do. That was true at Tem­ple, where Owls coach Matt Rhule said Young “helped change our cul­ture maybe more than any­one else.” That’s been the case so far with the Ravens, as Young has started three games as a rookie fourthround pick and has not been over­whelmed in matchups against proven speed­sters DeSean Jack­son and An­to­nio Brown.

Young did such a com­mend­able job

against Brown on Sun­day that Ravens coach John Har­baugh, heed­ing the ad­vice of out­side line­backer Ter­rell Suggs, awarded him a game ball af­ter the Ravens’ 21-14 vic­tory.

“It felt good, but I know I need to keep push­ing and get bet­ter ev­ery week,” Young said af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice. “I need to move past that.”

With Sha­reece Wright still deal­ing with a ham­string in­jury, Young is ex­pected to get an­other start in Thurs­day’s prime-time game against the Cleve­land Browns at M&T Bank Sta­dium. In eight games, he has 25 tack­les, two passes de­fended, two in­ter­cep­tions, a fum­ble re­cov­ery and a 63-yard re­turn of a blocked ex­tra-point at­tempt in Week 2 at Cleve­land. His ball skills, work ethic and com­pet­i­tive­ness have stood out to Har­baugh.

He might have im­pressed his team­mates most, though, with the way he re­sponded to get­ting beaten by Odell Beck­ham Jr. for the de­ci­sive 66-yard touch­down pass in the Ravens’ Oct. 16 loss to the New York Gi­ants. Young, who ran into safety Eric Wed­dle on the play, took ac­count­abil­ity for the touch­down. He then re­turned to prac­tice the fol­low­ing Tues­day as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

“I could tell when we drafted him, my first day prac­tic­ing with him in camp and in [or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties], that he was a Raven,” vet­eran safety Lar­dar­ius Webb said. “Just with how he bounces back, he’s a fighter. That’s the type of guy you want. He gets up and com­petes. He’ll never back down from a chal­lenge.”

A lo­cal ‘Ed Reed’

Grow­ing up in Oxon Hill in Prince Ge­orge’s County, Young dab­bled in sev­eral sports, but athletics were hardly an ob­ses­sion. His fa­ther played high school foot­ball. His mother was a cheer­leader. Young played a cou­ple of years of recre­ational foot­ball, but he gave up the sport — at least the or­ga­nized ver­sion — for much of his ado­les­cence. He honed his ball-hawk­ing skills in neigh­bor­hood pickup games where his friends start­ing calling him “Ed Reed” be­cause he al­ways seemed to be get­ting in­ter­cep­tions.

Young played his sopho­more and ju­nior sea­sons at Fred­er­ick Dou­glass in Up­per Marl­boro before trans­fer­ring to Po­tomac in time for his se­nior sea­son. There he joined a team that in­cluded Florida State re­cruit Ron­ald Darby, who was drafted by the Buf­falo Bills in 2015, and Don­dre Echols, who be­came a stand­out sprinter at South Carolina. Crump said nine play­ers from the team got col­lege schol­ar­ships.

Sur­rounded by so much tal­ent, Young didn’t stand out too much, and that was fine Tavon Young, shown in the Ravens’ pre­sea­son game against Buf­falo, was drafted in the fourth round. A for­mer coach called Young an “Ozzie New­some-type player.” with him.

“He has a re­served per­son­al­ity,” Crump said. “Some­times you didn’t even know he was in the room. You wouldn’t even know he was in the build­ing.”

There was also the mat­ter of his size. Young had the speed — he was on a 4x100-me­ter re­lay team at Po­tomac that set a state record — but he stood just 5 feet 9. There weren’t too many Di­vi­sion I schools lin­ing up to of­fer schol­ar­ships to un­der­sized cor­ner­backs.

“At first, it did bother me,” Young said about peo­ple ques­tion­ing his size. “But it’s just foot­ball. If you can play, you can play. That’s how I’ve al­ways looked at it.”

At­ti­tude shift

Young started two games and had two in­ter­cep­tions as a true fresh­man at Tem­ple, but his first year at the Philadel­phia school chal­lenged him. He didn’t re­spond well to coach­ing, and the Owls’ strug­gles on the field made matters worse.

“Coaches would cuss at me, and I didn’t take that lightly,” Young said. “I didn’t talk back to them, but it was just my de­meanor. As soon as [Rhule] came in, he brought me into his of­fice and laid the rules down. He said, ‘You ei­ther co­op­er­ate, get bet­ter or change your ways, or you’ll be gone.’ So I changed.”

Young made so much progress that by his sopho­more sea­son — Rhule’s first at the helm of the Owls pro­gram — the cor­ner­back was help­ing to lead de­fen­sive back meet­ings and break­ing down game film with coaches. Young was so re­spected by his team­mates that before the 2014 opener, he was voted to wear Tem­ple’s No. 1 jersey, awarded to the team’s “tough­est player.” The Owls made a four-win im­prove­ment from 2013 to 2014, then won 10 games and went to a bowl game in 2015.

“He’s one of the most com­pet­i­tive play­ers I’ve ever been around, and that com­pet­i­tive na­ture doesn’t just lend it­self to go­ing out and cov­er­ing An­to­nio Brown. That’s how he goes about get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day,” Rhule said. “He’s a guy that stud­ies the game, loves the game, stud­ies him­self. He made it cool and ac­cept­able and fun for guys to want to get coached.”

Young started 32 of 48 games in four sea­sons at Tem­ple, had seven ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions and 127 tack­les and scored two touch­downs. As a se­nior, he shut down

Ravens news­let­ter

Go to bal­ti­more­ news­let­ters to sign up for Ravens In­sider, an email that will ar­rive reg­u­larly in your in­box with news up­dates and more cov­er­age


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.