Whipple remembers when Young came in as a freshman at 175 pounds. He was undersized — the average NFL running back usually weighs upward of 215 pounds — but it was Young’s work ethic that was striking to the four-year head coach.
“He’s put on probably 30 pounds [since freshman year],” Whipple guessed. “He kept his speed and really worked on his hands, really studied the game, understands protections and understands the pass game better.
“He’s always been a positive guy. He leads by example and he’s a hard worker,” Whipple added.
Smith, who came to UMass in the spring of 2015 after a stint at Villanova, believes that Young is on pace to be one of the top backs in UMass’ history — even in the country. He thinks that by the end of his final season, the recognition and results that Young has always deserved will come.
“He’s going to have to put up the numbers and he’s going to have to showcase his talent on a national stage every time we get an opportunity to,” Smith said. “Those things aren’t given, they’re always earned.”
Young says he’s treated every day of his senior year so far as if it were his last chance to do something great. For someone who has such high expectations of himself, that mindset has made Young into a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to working on his game.
Since 2015, Young and the Minutemen have won just 10 games. It’s no secret the struggles that the Minutemen have faced since joining the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, but for Young, it was always a possibility to get better.
Coming into the football practice facility at 6 a.m. to watch film before Whipple even walks in the door is an ordinary start to the day for Young. He says he will just sit in the auditorium and look over his pass protections, routes, his catching and cut abilities, even if it’ll make just a sliver of improvement to his game.
“I have a tough time feeling like, even on the play that I made a big play or big touchdown, I always look at it like I could’ve done something better,” Young said. “That's why I always come here, because I want to be able to reach my highest potential.”
Even though success hasn’t always come easily for UMass football, Young has always had an appreciation for his team. He mentioned how he’s had teammates play like individuals, while others are more team-oriented. He can also recall teammates that didn’t see eye-to-eye on what the common goal was, which added to the team’s frustrations.
But, in Young’s opinion, one part of the team has always been consistent.
“Since I’ve been here, Coach Whip has always been a hell of a coach,” Young said. “He’s done whatever he had to do to help us figure out that we are a good team and give us confidence, believing that we all have a common goal that we want to accomplish.
“Most importantly, we believe in Coach Whip.”
Whipple considers Young to be a role model for the younger players on the roster, noting how much he’s matured since his freshman year. Both Whipple and Smith have recognized Young’s influence on the team and made sure he knew that his demeanor would set the tone for everyone else.
The three-year running back coach says that if Young is upbeat, everything and everyone around him is upbeat.
“He has one of those presences where it exudes,” Smith said. “When he is in a room his personality exudes. His laughter exudes.”
What a legacy to leave.
Mollie Walker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.