But Young is only 21, and he knows he can’t do this alone. After the Washington Football Team drafted him second overall this spring, he repeatedly praised “my team” for being essential to his development. He credited this group — a manager, a trainer, an agent and his family — for helping him navigate the early stages of being a professional, which took place during an unprecedented NFL offseason amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if I went undrafted or the first pick in the draft; I was going to have a team around me,” Young said. “You just need a team to be at your best.”
The work done by the people who surround NFL stars often goes unnoticed, but it can play a pivotal role in limiting life’s inconveniences and keeping players focused and on track. In Young’s case, it has helped him quickly establish a large presence in Washington’s locker room.
“He just kind of has that vibe when you walk by him,” veteran cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “He doesn’t seem like a rookie. He seems like a professional.”
These are the people who have helped get Young ready.
The manager: Ian Thomas
Young said he really considers Ian Thomas more of his “big bro” than he does his manager. The two met in 2013, when Young was in eighth grade and attending summer workouts at St. Vincent Pallotti High in Laurel, Md., where Thomas was the defensive coordinator. Young liked Thomas because he pushed him as hard as he could — and because he already had lived Young’s dream.
A decade earlier, Thomas was an elite athlete coming up in Prince George’s County. He boxed at Sugar Ray Leonard’s gym, practiced hoops with Kevin Durant and played linebacker at DeMatha Catholic High. At Illinois, Thomas was honorable mention all-Big Ten, a key cog in the program’s first back-to-back bowl wins. He later tried out with Washington’s NFL team.
At Pallotti, Thomas saw something special in Young’s combination of drive and physical gifts. Young saw Thomas as a guide, and the pair spent more and more time together. Young transferred from Pallotti to DeMatha after his sophomore year and became one of the nation’s top football prospects, but Young made his way back to Thomas’s office at Pallotti often enough that it seemed as if he still went there.
Four years later, when Young was a star at Ohio State, Thomas became a familiar presence as Young’s world shifted around him. Thomas helped minimize distractions to keep Young on track, and last year he found himself driving west on Interstate 670 to Columbus about six times per month. After Ohio State’s season-ending loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Young and Thomas flew from Glendale, Ariz., to Los Angeles, and Thomas more or less became his official manager.
Now Thomas oversees the finer details of Young’s life. He considers himself “Chase when Chase isn’t there.” He gets the cars washed and manages his sponsored social media posts and coordinates furniture with the interior designer. Sometimes, though, he and Young still sit down after a long day and break down practice tape like they used to.
“He does a lot with everything I have going on and off the field,” Young said. “I can just worry ’bout ball and having peace of mind.”
The trainer: Martin Gibson
One of the most important figures in Young’s development is Martin Gibson, whom everyone calls “Moe.” The running backs coach at DeMatha owns a personal training business, and he and Young grew close quickly. Young would quiz Gibson about college ball — he played at Villanova — and working with New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
To maximize Young’s natural athleticism, Gibson trained Young like a skill position player. They first focused on circuit training rather than weights, conditioning Young to be agile and fluid. Now, as the NFL prioritizes speed and versatility more than ever, what separates Young from most defensive ends is his ability to drop into coverage against smaller, quicker players.
“The pace of the workout was pretty crazy,” Gibson said in April. “If you can imagine, we were going an hour and a half almost nonstop.”
When Young left for Ohio State, he learned the technical aspects of playing defensive end from his position coach, Larry Johnson, but he still often spoke with Gibson. They worked out together whenever Young was home, and this offseason, to ready Young for his rookie year, Gibson replaced Washington’s canceled team activities with his own. He tried to minimize the disruption caused by the virus by coordinating workouts — three a day sometimes — at his cousin’s house. They used a backyard bench for split-squats and cement buckets for barbells, all with the goal of kick-starting Young’s quest to be one of the best to ever play.
“There’s a big target on his back, and there’s a lot of pressure,” Gibson said. “But he’s worked hard enough. He’s ready for it.”
The agent: Damarius Bilbo
Damarius Bilbo advises Young during contract negotiations and helps manage his business interests, but he is just one part of the larger blueprint of Klutch Sports Group, the superagency helmed by Rich Paul that represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis and other superstars. The Klutch blueprint: Professional athletes are professionals first, athletes second.
Don’t get it twisted: Young knows producing on the field is most important right now. But he wants his playing career to be a springboard to the future, and one important step is starting ventures off the field. Shortly after he declared for the draft in January, when Young was considering offers from corporate partners, Bilbo recommended avoiding short-term, big-money deals from companies only interested in him as a top pick. Many athletes leave college looking for the biggest paycheck, Bilbo said, and not a relationship.
“It’s not all about who’s paying you,” Bilbo said. “[It’s about] who’s paying attention.”
Young seems to have bought into the approach. Bilbo said Young declined “a ton of huge deals” from corporate partners and instead signed with companies he already liked, such as Chipotle and Old Spice. Even though he attended Ohio State, a Nike school, he signed a shoe deal with Under Armour because its headquarters in Baltimore made it more accessible.
“These are people who didn’t just get drafted number two and say, ‘We made it,’ ” Bilbo said. “These are people that say, ‘We got drafted number two, and it’s just beginning.’ That’s what I saw when I saw Chase Young’s team.”
The family: Greg, Carla and Weslie Young
Chase’s parents, Greg and Carla, were his original team. In a way, Carla had prepared for the role her whole life. Growing up in a close-knit family, she “couldn’t wait to have kids” and support them. After she met Greg at a Bowie State basketball game, they married, moved to Cheltenham, Md., and settled into long careers, Greg at the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and Carla at the Department of Transportation.
Early on, the Youngs set a standard Carla believes is key to Chase’s success. The family went to church, worked long hours and assigned chores. Chase started doing his own laundry and cutting the grass at 10 years old. Carla banned televisions in her kids’ rooms, and Greg trained his children as athletes, avoiding specialization and coaching gurus. Chase and his older sister, Weslie, became friendly rivals.
“I installed the work ethic in them,” Greg said. “If you teach kids early on, [they’re] going to work hard.”
The baseline effort and genes — Carla is 6 feet tall, Greg is 6-10 — matched well with Young’s knack for football. When he was 6, he played quarterback on a team with older kids. He learned 21 plays, Carla remembered, and seemed to intuit the finer points of the game such as route-running and “the B gap.” Even then, coaches told her Chase would play on Sundays.
Now, to support Chase, Carla does whatever she can. After he moved to Northern Virginia for training camp, she started swinging by a few days a week. She helped schedule appointments, care for his three dogs — a bully, a bull terrier and a presa canario — and cook meals. She avoided dairy and mixed in the new, plant-based foods Chase picked up while living in Los Angeles before the draft. She actually liked the vegan mayonnaise.
Sometimes Chase feels as if he can only go to his parents “for real, real serious things, [like] talks about money,” he said. During contract negotiations, the family’s discipline impressed Bilbo, the agent. He had seen “a lot of people panic and get overwhelmed” in those times, but Greg and Carla didn’t. They researched and understood the process, which helped.
It resembled the type of support Young’s parents have always tried to provide their son. And just so he doesn’t forget, Carla texts him encouragement every morning.
“He knows I got him,” she said. “That’s just what I do. He’s still a baby to me."