|09-05-2007, 04:18 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos rookie Young all about perseverance
Tough times can't deter RB from success
By Mike Klis
Broncos running back Selvin Young knew enough about hitting the bottom to understand it wasn't seeing his name listed No. 5 on a five-man depth chart.
Young may be one of the Broncos' biggest surprises of 2007, after catapulting from undrafted rookie to the first tailback who will spell starter Travis Henry in the season opener Sunday at Buffalo. But next to riding a wheelchair right out of Texas, if not Austin, overtaking Cecil Sapp, Mike Bell and Andre Hall for the Broncos' No. 2 running back job was little more than a dash around right end.
"What we do each and every day is a feeling of victory," Young said. "My mind-set is you go to bed with a victory, you wake up the next day with a victory and then go back to work and try to get another victory."
A rosy, 180-degree turn for a guy who two years ago was utterly defeated. Pushing Heisman Trophy candidate Cedric Benson for playing time at the University of Texas to start the 2004 season, Young shattered his right ankle while returning a kick in his second game. The ankle was so badly broken, Young had to spend weeks in a wheelchair.
His new mode of transportation made it difficult to get to classes, which was fine because his mind wasn't on books, anyway.
Before the start of the next semester in January 2005, Young was told his grades were so poor, he was getting the boot. Not by the Longhorns, but the school. The running back's scholarship was pulled, although he was told if he took some classes across town at Austin Community College, the team and school would consider reinstating him.
Good luck, kid. Keep the head up. See ya around, maybe. Yeah, right.
"It was a terrible time for him," said Tim Crowder, Young's teammate now with the Broncos and then with Texas. "He was in a wheelchair for a while, trying to get to class. He would be late. He was down, depressed. It was reflected in his grades. It was just a hard time for him."
College athletics produces similar versions to Young's hard-luck story every year. Most times, the kids are never heard from again. They might transfer to a smaller school if they don't quit altogether, but their days with the big-time college program ordinarily become history.
Young not only made it back to Texas, he made the honor roll in consecutive semesters and eventually earned his degree in liberal arts. He not only was reinstated to the Longhorns' team in 2005, he gained 45 yards, including a touchdown, on just seven carries in the thrilling national championship victory against USC.
"If a guy can make it through something like that, you know he has a lot of mental toughness," Crowder said.
Know what bottoming out taught Young? Self-pity was only going to bury him further. Climbing back would only happen if he humbly admitted wrong and rededicated his priorities. Young believes the attention to detail he picked up during his Texas comeback is what helped him get his shot with the Broncos.
"When I came here, I tried to do things that go unnoticed - or maybe were noticed but it seemed like no one was noticing," Young said. "Things like being on time, paying attention during meetings, running hard during practice. I think I did enough little things to where they said, 'We have no choice but to give this guy an opportunity."'
Young did have some luck. During the Broncos' five-day stay in Dallas last
month, three running backs got hurt. With Henry, Bell and Hall unable to play in the third preseason game against Cleveland, the Broncos had little choice but to give Young the ball.
He rushed 17 times for 91 yards. Afterward, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said it looked to him like Young was a step quicker than everybody else on the field.
No doubt, Young earned his three-step promotion up the tailback depth chart. But training camps are littered with talented players who feel like they never got a chance to shine before they were released.
"I always feel like regardless of how it comes, when it comes and what it looks like, when the opportunity is there, you have to be ready to go," Young said.
A few days later, Young started against Arizona as the Broncos rested their regulars. He ran hard between the tackles and showed speed and shiftiness during a fourth-quarter, 12-yard touchdown run.
In practice this week, Henry is the Broncos' No. 1 tailback - and Young is the team's No. 1 testament to perseverance.
"When we got back together for practice this week, I told Selvin how proud I was of him," Crowder said. "I was one of those guys at Texas who was always in his head, telling him to pull it together, everything would work out. But he's the guy who had to do it. He went though a tough time. I saw it. That's why I'm so proud of him."
By the numbers
After getting only five carries in the Broncos' first two preseason games, undrafted rookie Selvin Young has moved up the depth chart. His highlights:
91 yards gained vs. Cleveland, on 17 carries (5.4 average, one TD)
49 yards gained vs. Arizona, on 12 carries (4.1 average, one TD)
19th his ranking on the University of Texas' all-time list (1,713 yards, 4.7 avg., 25 TDs)