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Byron Young/Instagram
Former JUCO tryout Byron Young is now one of the better stories of the 2021 recruiting cycle.

Byron Young: JUCO tryout with ‘Disney movie’ story finds himself with big SEC offers, including UGA

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry offers a good first crack at the story of 2021 junior college OLB prospect Byron Young from Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. 

No 2020 season. No Power Five offers heading into October. No stars. No rankings.

No problem.

Junior college OLB prospect Byron Young is deeply thankful for the recent ascent regarding his football career.

“My life has changed a lot since October,” Young said. “I’ve prayed on this. I’m thankful. When COVID-19 came around I was thinking my career was over with a little bit. My season was over with.”

That’s the quick-twitch burst off the line for new Georgia Military College grad Byron Young and an unlikely recruiting story.

If we wind it all the way back, it might start with not having the grades to go big-time out of high school. GMC was an option, but he just didn’t know about junior college football. It didn’t impress him.

When he moved from his native South Carolina to the Columbus area in Georgia, his opinion changed.

His mind changed as he went to work. Not work in the weight room. Or a grind with a speed trainer. This was actual real-life work. Timecards. Stocking shelves.

For about 18 months, Young was an assistant manager at a Dollar General Store.

He is now set to choose between offers from Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee, among others. At this time a month ago, he just had offers from Old Dominion and South Alabama.

“It is just kind of like a Hallmark story or something,” GMC defensive coordinator and interim head coach Rob Manchester said. “Definitely a Disney movie in a way that it has all gone down. You know he’s a little bit older now than most junior college freshmen.”

Young, who will be 23 in March, found his way to GMC off a “flyer.” A literal flyer that advertised an open combine tryout for the GMC football team. He was noticed immediately.

“The first thing we saw was man, this guy can really run at 220 pounds,” Manchester said.

When he sprints and conditioned with his junior college team, he was likely the second or third fastest-man on those Bulldogs. That’s counting the skill guys, too.

Young spent the weekend on a virtual visit with Tennessee. The 6-foot-3.5, 230-pound rising sophomore also took an impromptu self-guided trip to Auburn over the weekend.

“A lot of junior college players out there believe in themselves to the point they know they will get a good offer out of it,” Manchester said. “But not even those guys think about all of this. What he’s going through right now really does not happen. It is like he has got everybody in the country offering him.”

“He was like ‘I never thought I was going to play in the SEC’ and it wasn’t that he thought he was not good enough to play in the SEC. He just never thought this was going to happen. It was not that he didn’t believe in himself. It is just crazy.”

The other amazing thing to note here is the fact he could find a fit. With the pandemic, rosters are going to be scrutinized more than ever. Those free years of eligibility for current players complicate the math with 85 scholarships for football players.

The numbers crunch there is only compounded by the need to make room for the high school players each big-time program will add. It takes a special junior college player to get noticed in this COVID-19 recruiting climate. Much less those who were once employed as an assistant general manager at a dollar store.

“We’re going to miss him,” Manchester said. “He’s disruptive. We’re not going to be able to replace him when we play in the spring.”

Byron Young-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Byron Young had a terrific scrimmage this fall for Georgia Military College. JUCOs were allowed 60 practice days and up to the three scrimmages. He piled up multiple sacks and tackles for losses in his only real fall scrimmage action this year. (Courtesy photo from Georgia Military College football)

Byron Young: Practice and scrimmage film > Obstacles

The junior colleges didn’t get a 2020 season this fall. COVID-19 sacked all that, too. It meant he just had a freshman season with seven sacks and 11 stops behind the line to rely on.

“I didn’t have a season and then I blew up,” Young said. “It usually doesn’t work like this. Players usually don’t blow up like this after one season. I’m just grateful.”

It was enough. Along with a few fall practice clips. The junior colleges were allowed to get 60 days of practice his fall and a scrimmage or three.

These fall clips didn’t hurt.

Young has offers from Auburn, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Those all came between Oct. 27 and Nov. 4.

The ferocity in his practice tape helped.

“He can run,” Manchester said. “He can help you right away anywhere on special teams. His lateral quickness is superior and he’s really got some ‘Dog’ in him, too.”

But then came these comments from recently retired Georgia Military College coach Bert Williams. They sum up the impact he made in Milledgeville. Those coaches at GMC stood up on the table for him.

Williams on Young:

  • “He came in for one of our tryout dates and did exceptionally well. He earned a spot in a hurry just because of his speed and explosiveness as much as anything. … His effort is as good as anybody I think we’ve ever had here. He is full-go all-go from his first play to his last play. He’s one of those guys you will be up by 50 points and will still want to run out there and play. He just loves playing football and is pretty darn good at it.” 
  • “His motor just never ends. … It is very easy to see how much this guy loves to play football.”
  • “In practice, we will put scout defense out there and if you don’t watch him he will run out there and take more reps on the scout team from some of the guys we are trying to develop when he’s the starter. That’s if we don’t pull him back off the field. He’s out there making those tackles work and get really ready for our next opponent.”
  • “We’ve had a lot of guys with really good motors go to a lot of good places like Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn but if he’s not the best, he’s certainly at the top two or three.” 
  • “I’m just going to tell you that tackles everywhere are going to have a hard time with this guy. He is so quick and has such good natural leverage with the speed rush and is so deceptively powerful when he goes to the body with a power move. He’s hard to handle.” 
  • “He’s among the top 10 players we’ve ever had here as far as being the total package here. There is no doubt about that as far as talent, performance, work ethic, attention to detail and being fun to coach and those type of things. He’s one of those you will miss. You go like ‘Dang, I’d love to coach a hundred kids like him every day of my life if it could be that way’ as far as that goes.”
  • “His strength is impressive on a pound-for-pound basis. He’s going to wow some people. He makes Tarzan look wimpy when he sits there with his shirt off.”

Those comments are rather significant given GMC’s history as a transit stop from high school to big-time college football to the NFL. Williams has spent the last 23 years with the program, including the last 20 as the head coach of the football program.

“Georgia was saying they really like my energy,” Young said. “That’s defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. I’m very fast and they really like my energy and the way that I can get to the ball.”

Lanning told him he’d be an outside linebacker and an edge rusher in Athens.

“He said that I can move pretty good for my size,” Young said. “They like the way I can get to the ball.”

That Georgia offer meant a lot.

“I saw that Georgia offer and it made me feel some type of way,” Young said. “That’s because I have always loved that Georgia defense. Georgia has always had that top defense. Always number one or number two or number three in the rankings. Always in the conversation to be the best. When they offered me, it made me feel like ‘Wow they offered me and that’s a top-tier defense and that’s how they see me as a top guy’ and that got me excited. I was happy.”

Byron Young-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Check out the power and explosion off the line for Byron Young (97) from a scrimmage earlier this fall. (Courtesy photo/Georgia Military College)

Byron Young: A very unlikely success story

When Williams told his Bulldogs earlier this year about a canceled fall season, it was rough.

“When he told me they canceled the season, I was pretty hurt,” Young said. “That we were only going to have fall practice and that was it.”

He was puzzled. They were talking ’bout practice. No games to prepare for. Just practice.

“I didn’t know how that was going to work,” Young said. “I just felt like the colleges needed to see me in games to offer. Not just practices.”

“But it looked like it turned out pretty good for me, though.”

Young played in just one scrimmage this fall. GMC had two, but by then he already had the big offers. The concern there was to just keep him healthy.

That first scrimmage was enough. That’s because he treated it like his lifeline to big-time college football. But that’s no different than what he always did at GMC.

“Practices, scrimmages or games,” Young said. “I go hard at everything. It doesn’t matter. I take it all very seriously.”

He said he was juiced up for every practice or scrimmage that he had to tone himself down a bit.

“As you see from that practice film on my Twitter, that was our first day of practice,” he said. “I had to calm it down a little bit in the middle of that first practice. Because those were my teammates, too. I wasn’t going to hit them too hard. They needed to stay healthy to get good looks to create their opportunities, too.”

If that sounds unlikely, then consider the route he had coming out of high school to get to GMC.

“They offered me coming out of high school and I didn’t go,” he said. “I sat out. I sat out about a year and a half working and everything. Then I saw a flyer for a tryout at GMC in 2019 and I said to myself I was going to go to it. The spring of 2019 I came here and tried out.”

“I just finally didn’t feel like giving up football,” he said. “I thought that I didn’t want to play football anymore and it just kept going through my mind.”

Young said this week there are about “four or five schools” that are separating themselves out of the pack and making him a priority. Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee would be three of those.

He has graduated with his associate’s degree and will have three years to play three seasons.

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is now available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it. 

Byron Young-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Byron Young counts his blessings that he now has offers from Auburn, FSU, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee to choose from at this time. (Byron Young/Instagram)

Byron Young: A decision he’ll make over the next 30 days

Look for him to make his decision in mid-December. He’ll sign during the early period and enroll as a mid-year in January of 2021.

To do that, he’s thinking of dropping a top 5 at the end of this month. That will narrow it down to five. He said there’s a “pretty good” chance that UGA will be among that final five.

What is he looking for? He shared what will swing his decision.

“It will honestly be which team can convince me the most about playing time and stuff like that and how they will use me,” he said.

He had a virtual tour with Auburn about two weeks ago, he said. Tennessee, his first SEC offer, did host him for another virtual this weekend.

“It is helping a little bit,” he said of having to make do in the pandemic recruiting cycle. “It is giving me a little bit of leeway of where I want to go.”

Byron Young-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Byron Young said what he loves best about playing football is simple. “I love to run and hit,” he said. (Byron Young/Instagram)

What are those like? He broke down the Auburn virtual. Not an official. Not an unofficial, but a virtual visit that took about 45 minutes.

“It went great,” he said. “My whole family was there. I got to speak with coach Gus [Malzhan] and stuff like that.”

Malzahn spoke at first with a PowerPoint presentation. It showed him different clips. Young plans to pursue his master’s in business administration in college. He showed him clips pertaining to Auburn’s programs and support staff in that degree pursuit.

“Then they had a lady walk around campus to show us around and stuff like that,” he said.

She would ride a golf cart to different areas like the middle of the field on Jordan-Hare Stadium and then the weight room and other facilities.

What really impressed him? He said he really liked Auburn’s indoor facility. He’s a fan of those in general.

“The defensive guys were all in the Zoom and they were in a conference room and they just asked me different questions like that,” Young said. “They were all talking to me. Some of those coaches are from South Carolina like me so they could relate to where I am from.”

Byron Young: What the recruiters are saying to him 

Young said that he is talking to Georgia consistently. He was expecting to talk to his primary recruiter Dan Lanning very soon. Lanning would be his position coach as well as serving as the defensive coordinator in Athens.

He said that Lanning was “fired up” after he extended the offer.

“He said that I am the type of player that they are not just going to have on the sideline watching,” Young said. “They will put me in and let me get a feel for things fast and run to the ball.”

Georgia really likes his speed, but they also mentioned their recent success with JUCO prospects Jermaine Johnson and former GMC standout DJ Daniel. Daniel started 11 games in 2019 in his first year at UGA.

Byron Young-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Byron Young on why he wears No. 97. “They just gave me a number when I got here and so that was fine. I don’t complain about anything. I will take whatever they give me. I just want to play football.” (Byron Young/Instagram)

“I know about him,” Young said. “I’ve really heard about him. I read about him. I watched him on the games and I love it. Just watching him, one of the coaches told me that was where he wanted to go and that’s what he did. He was determined to play at Georgia.”

Tennessee’s pitch is led by outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton.

“They honestly really be making edits for me and stuff like that and they act like they really care,” Young said late last week. “I love how they are always telling me they are looking at my film. He said this morning the whole staff just saw your film and they went crazy. I love how they tell me they have seen my film and they think I can really play there.”

He had a novel way to describe his non-stop motor and energy.

“I treat every down like it is third down,” Young said. “Coaches call that the get off the field down, but I feel like if you go full speed and make the play and you can get off the field right there. That’s why I try to give my all every play and go the fastest I can. We can get off the field with a big play every play if I do that.”

It helps to explain where Young has been. And also where he is going.


(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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