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Chris Young catches on to things pretty quickly.
Consider that the 17-year-old at Smiths Station High School grew up playing soccer and basketball, and had no prior football experience and only a few months of wrestling experience entering his senior year in the fall.
Now Young, a defensive end, has signed a football scholarship with Point University in West Point, Ga., after recording 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble for the Panthers in 2012.
Right off the bat, I had a strong vibe, Young said about choosing Point, which is now in just its second year as a football program. They have very strong Christian values and its close to my Family.
Because of Young, defensive line stats were higher this year than any other in head coach Mark Roses tenure since he took over in 2008.
He was our best pass rusher, Rose said. At 195 pounds, he was lining up against 300-pound tackles a lot. He was physical and has good extension and long arms. His ceiling is extremely high in college because I think hes going to continue to get better and better.
Young recorded his first sack, which was also the teams first sack of the season, in the second game against Lanier (Montgomery, Ala.) High School.
I was lined up on the outside, Young said. When the ball was snapped, I did an inside swim move all I saw was the ball and I went straight for it and got the sack.
He also did something not many players did last season sack Carver (Montgomery) High School quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who is committed to Auburn. At 215 pounds and 6 feet 6 inches tall, Johnson is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 5 quarterback recruit for 2013.
How about wrestling? After winning a sectional title and finishing runner up in the 195-pound weight class at the city wrestling tournament, Young lost a fifth-place match at the Alabama Class 6A state wrestling tournament.
Hes only been wrestling for 15 or 16 months and hes a sectional champion, head wrestling coach Bobby Sanders said. Thats not normal. Thats not supposed to happen.
Young prefers the team aspect of football and attributed that as a primary reason he chose football over wrestling in college, he said.
This past season really shed a lot of light on my feelings toward the sport of football, he said. I enjoyed experiencing Friday night lights.
Rose said he wasnt surprised at Youngs remarkable success in two sports he took up such a short time ago. Rose, also the schools athletic director, prides himself in tough, survival-of-the-fittest athletic programs, building kids up at the earliest age to put them in the best position to succeed as they get ready to leave high school. So the surprise came when Young came aboard and outworked most of everyone. He was the only senior on the team to land a scholarship.
You make it through our practices, youre going to be alright in the game, Rose said.
We have a very demanding program. We lift for hours. We bring them in four days per week at 5:30 a.m. in the summer and do a three-hour workout. Most folks dont just come in and adjust really well to what we do.
What are Youngs keys to success? One would be hes a natural athlete 6 feet 4 inches tall with a dynamic wingspan and quick legs.
But the other reason comes from outside of him.
I think one of the biggest keys is his parents, Rose said. They arent going to allow him to not do his best.
Young was born in Jamaica and moved to Miami with his mother, Simone, at the age of 6 in 2002. She met her current husband, John Perusek, in Miami and the Family was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, before coming to Fort Benning in August 2011. John Perusek is Special Forces and serves as a senior liaison officer at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Simone said.
They are tough parents; Simone is outspoken about the time that can be wasted by video games. She is thankful for her son, who always cared more about spending time outdoors and getting involved with sports, she said.
He has a quiet spirit, she said. He doesnt really talk a lot. But when it comes to sports, you see him really come out of his shell.
If you are older than him, Young will address you as sir or maam, and his parents and coaches testify that he never questions authority.
Weve never had one single discipline issue with him, Rose said.
That could explain why Young got so good so quickly in wrestling. After transferring from Shaw High School, where he wrestled his junior year, Young came into the Smiths Station summer camp as an athletic wrestler needing better form, Sanders said. Young was coachable, he said; quick to listen and learn.
You tell him something and he goes and does it, Sanders said. You dont have to tell him 20 times to get the point across.
You could see the talent there and all you have to do is mold it. Hes grown tremendously. In one of his only losses of the year he does something wrong in his technique and he loses the match. He came back and worked on it and we havent had that problem since.