But a young player who has flown in under the radar is rookie defensive end
Young, taken in the seventh round by the Lions, stands tall at 6-5 and weighs in at 251 pounds, falling in line with the theme of being “bigger and faster.” Considering the competition he will be up against for a roster spot come training camp, Young has every reason to be anxious.
His actual temperament, however, is quite the opposite.
“I’m very relaxed,” he said. “There’s no reason to be timid. I just go out, get a couple plays, learn the playbook, go out to the field and apply it on the field. I just try to stick to that and go full speed. Even if you make a mistake, you can at least go full speed.”
One contributing factor to Young being so relaxed is the help he’s receiving from his veteran teammates.
Fellow-defensive ends Vanden Bosch and
“You always have to be fighting for your position, but in their case, that’s not the case,” said Young of Vanden Bosch and DeVries. “Those are 10-plus-years vets, so you have to be doing something to maintain. That was my first question: ‘How do you do it for 10 years?’
“They’re a big help to us – me in particular – from working out to film sessions and just learning the ropes of everything.”
Both Vanden Bosch and DeVries have reputations around the league for being hardworking professionals and that has shown itself in the way they have reached out to players like Young.
Each morning, Vanden Bosch, DeVries, Williams, Suh and Young get an early lifting workout in before working out with the entire team.
Once team workouts are complete, the veterans will watch film with the young players.
“I’ll watch all of the vets – the ends and the tackles,” said Young of the film sessions. “Players like Kyle make it look so easy, but if you watch him on film, his technique, his steps are identical to the previous play.
“It’s like, ‘Are we watching the same play?’ That’s how it plays out every time. To me, that’s an indication that you have to be consistent with what you’re doing and perfect your craft.”
It is typically the biggest obstacle for linemen – offense or defense – transitioning from college to the NFL.
As an elite player at the college ranks, players can typically get away with not focusing as much on their technique because they can dominate with pure athleticism.
Young is learning that there is a lot he will have to change at the professional level, even if those things seem small in nature.
“There are small things I didn’t have to focus on so much in college: maybe taking proper steps, not having any wasted motions, which is critical at this level,” he said. “Some things you can get away with in college, but you can’t get away with it up here now.”
Rookie players knowing what they don’t know can be a big benefit at the pro level, since it opens them up to teaching and guidance from coaches and other players.
Young actually went as far as to say he didn’t want to name what he considers his on-field strengths because he hasn’t played in an actual game yet.
“This is such a different level than college,” he said. “Not having actually been on the field, I don’t know the difference between the two. Maybe I’ve heard the difference, but I haven’t actually experienced it myself.”
He has had plenty of advice given to him by reputable sources, however.
Mario Williams (Houston), Manny Lawson (San Francisco) and Tank Tyler (Carolina) all played with Young at NC State and Young’s cousin, linebacker Thomas Davis (Carolina), has also given Young some perspective.
“Those guys I used to call from time to time and they would give me a heads up about some things,” he said. “I would ask what I needed to expect going into mini-camp, rookie camp, OTAs. I ask about whatever I need to be prepared for, so that way I’m not caught off guard by anything.
“I know everybody does things differently, but just knowing and having an idea of what was expected from guys was a big help. I guess the biggest thing now is just doing what’s expected of myself as far as workouts, meetings, special teams – however I can help.”