Now, though, state-of-the-art amenities are inaccessible and cement buckets are crucial. Young carries and curls them with trainer Martin Gibson, who can no longer use his local gym. Gibson’s cousin’s house in Clinton, Md., has become Camp Young headquarters as the 21-year-old trains ahead of this week’s NFL draft. The backyard bench is repurposed for split-squats, the deck steps for triceps dips.
“It’s not the ideal setting, but we’ll make it work,” Gibson said. “I wouldn’t say it’s been that disruptive [to training].”
Young’s pre-draft process was supposed to be more. The Ohio State edge rusher, believed by many to be the best player in his draft class, had planned to jet back to Los Angeles again to train; to Columbus, Ohio, to show off for scouts one last time; and to Las Vegas to walk across the stage, shake the commissioner’s hand and realize the dream he had since he was a child.
This victory lap was important, not just as a respite from a rigorous final college season that ended in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff, but to prepare for what comes next. He will be shouldering the pressure of being a top pick, and the weight could feel heavier still if the Washington Redskins, as expected, select the Cheltenham, Md., native with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday night. He would be the local kid tasked with helping recapture an alienated fan base and the glory of a struggling franchise.
No matter where he goes, Young understands the magnitude of what’s next, according to people who know him well. The uncertainty of his draft process amid the coronavirus crisis has not bothered him, Gibson said, because he is okay when things go wrong. He has, throughout his life, worked hard enough not just to overcome obstacles but dominate them. And that path has prepared him for the NFL career that awaits.
“He’s the closest you can get to a sure thing in the NFL draft,” Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller said.
‘He never backed down’
Everyone in Chase Young’s life has a story of when they knew he could make it big. His father, Greg Young, for example, predicted his son would earn a college scholarship after watching 6-year-old Chase fly around the youth field, undersized but not intimidated.
For many, the realization came after Young transferred to DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville, Md., as a 6-foot-3 junior. Though DeMatha is better known for its basketball program, the football team competes in one of the nation’s most competitive conferences. Young showed up prepared, in part because of the discipline instilled by his parents: Greg, a retired Arlington County police deputy and former Bowie State basketball player, and Carla Young, a Department of Transportation employee.
“When we got the kid, when we watched his work ethic in the weight room, it didn’t take long to figure out he was going to be special,” DeMatha defensive coordinator Deno Campbell said. “We just had to figure out a way not to screw him up.”
The seriousness with which Young entered DeMatha surprised the staff. The culture of the all-boys school — strict discipline, rigorous schedule, hair requirements — proves difficult for most first-year students. But Young seemed unfazed. Joan Phelan, the co-director of the academic support center, remembers how Young spent most of his pre-practice time doing homework. Wendy Norris, the athletic trainer, remembers how he understood the importance of recuperating in ice baths.
Mike Jones, the basketball coach, can recall how Young helped corral unruly students in public speaking class.
“It wasn’t fake either,” Jones said. “It wasn’t the Eddie Haskell, ‘I’m doing this because Coach is here.’ There was no BS.”
On the field, the new kid quickly asserted himself as one of the Stags’ best players. He refused to take practices easy and often sneaked in extra reps with the scout team, exasperating his coaches by blowing up the offense. Young learned power pass-rush moves to complement his natural speed, and as a junior, he registered 19 sacks.
The team’s coach, Elijah Brooks, remembered Young didn’t shy away from his success. He let everyone know how good he was and what the team needed to do to win — including opposing players or older teammates.
“He never backed down from anyone,” Brooks said. “If people have something verbal to say to him or if they challenge him on the field, he’s always going to be on time to address it. That’s how alphas operate.”
By Young’s senior year, he was one of the nation’s top recruits, fielding offers from, among others, Clemson, Alabama and LSU. If Young’s confidence ever became cockiness — if he started “smelling himself,” as Campbell put it — the coaches tugged him back down to earth. Young rang up 19 sacks, 118 tackles, five forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns during DeMatha’s undefeated season in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
After the season, Campbell told Young the new style of football was “basketball on turf.” He needed to refine his speed as much as his strength to prepare himself for the next level. So the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Ohio State commit signed up for the track team, running the 100- and 200-meter dashes and concentrating on his explosive first step out of the blocks.
Young had little experience on the track, but he was out there almost every day, honing one of the skills that now separates him.
Dominant and versatile
The homework surprised Larry Johnson. Ohio State’s defensive line coach has recruited elite players before, including NFL pass rushers Joey and Nick Bosa, but Young did something few others had. He studied the coach.
“He’d call, and he’d be like: ‘You coached that guy? You coached that guy, too?’ ” Johnson said.
On campus, Johnson began building the new recruit’s skill set over which NFL scouts now drool. He honed Young’s natural athleticism, harnessed his explosive first step and taught him the side-scissors pass-rush move. He gave Young teaching tape on past players, such as Tamba Hali. He saw Young become an understudy to sophomore Nick Bosa.
“Nick was his guy,” Johnson said. “He watched everything he did.”
It took about a year for Young to “drink the Kool Aid,” Johnson said, but as a sophomore, Young stepped in for an injured Bosa and burst onto the national stage with 10.5 sacks. This past season, Young broke Ohio State’s single-season sack record with 16.5 in 12 games and became the ninth defensive player since 1982 to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
What separates Young from past elite edge-rushing prospects such as the Bosa brothers, Johnson said, is his versatility. He is not only 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, he also has been shaped by years of Gibson’s fast-paced circuit training that modeled him as a running back rather than a defensive lineman. Ohio State leaned on Young to play multiple roles: He would hunt down the quarterback on one play and drop into coverage the next.
“Not that the Bosas couldn’t do that,” Johnson said, “but he does it fluid.”
‘He’ll be ready’
After Ohio State’s season ended, Young’s life hit warp speed. He moved from Columbus to Los Angeles to prepare for the draft with a team that included Gibson. Young worked out three times a day — morning lift, midday cardio, evening stretch — and attended marketing meetings with Klutch Sports, his new agency. He sought out Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz, an old DeMatha friend in town to face the Los Angeles Clippers.
The former No. 1 NBA draft pick advised Young to stay intense and not lose focus the way some prospects do during the transition between college and professional sports. Young enjoyed Los Angeles — restaurants, Lakers games, an Oscars party — but didn’t lose sight of Fultz’s advice.
One Friday night, Young met trainer CJ Hammond through a mutual friend, and within an hour, they were at a gym down the street sliding on boxing gloves. Young picked up the technique quickly, punching with power and syncing his hands and feet. Hammond didn’t appreciate how big Young was until one night, out in Santa Monica, Young stood beside Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, who is 6-foot-9, 250 pounds.
“They were almost the same size,” Hammond said. “You would’ve thought Chase could play center in the NBA.”
In late February, Young flew to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine and then back to Maryland. He was supposed to return to Los Angeles a few weeks later, but has instead been staying home during the coronavirus crisis, easing down to one-a-day workouts with Gibson.
Last week, just before Young turned 21, he told Gibson his personal goals: Win defensive rookie of the year, earn a Pro Bowl nod “early” in his career and finish it with a Hall of Fame gold jacket. His team aim was simply more wins. They’re heady expectations, and the praise that has been heaped upon him over these past few months will soon become the expectations against which his career will be judged. But Young, Gibson said, is as hungry to prove himself as he was when he arrived at DeMatha.
“He’ll be ready,” Gibson said.