When Devion Young was a kid in Huntsville, Alabama, his momma wouldn’t let him play football.
So she put him in Boys Scouts instead.
As the fastest kid in his school, he wondered why he had to learn to start a fire instead of sprinting down the field to catch a ball.
But Young consoled himself by selling the most popcorn for Pack 228 every damn year.
“Five years in a row!” he says proudly. “I am so competitive and I was just like, let me beat somebody at something!”
Once Young hit middle school, and the football team was part of school sports, his mother acquiesced. And when he graduated high school in 2015, the safety was one of the top recruits.
Eligibility issues kept him out of NCAA football, so he headed to New York to play for a junior college. A teammate from Denmark then turned him on to the International Association of American Football, and Young soon joined the Silesia Rebels based in Katowice, Poland, where he has been playing since 2018.
Although Europeans are known for their futbol rather than their football, Young says the American sport is really catching on with interested young players as well as fans.
“Fans are loving it because they’re starting to understand it,” he said. “They’re seeing how the game goes and how things work. They’re interested. I really love how this is going.”
Part of that success is the increasing caliber of players involved.
With former NFL, XFL and CFL players joining the teams, the competition is building.
“It’s very, very competitive. You just got tough guys,” Young says, who signed his spring contract with the Rebels this week. “It’s progressing in the right direction.”
But even with that, Young would still like to get back to a team in the States, and he’d love a shot with the NFL, no matter how outside a chance it is.
With a 48-inch vertical jump and a lot of versatility on the field (he often plays multiple positions for the Rebels, including both safety and corner, kick and punt returner, and has even made plays at quarterback and wide receiver), Young bets high on himself.
Proving myself right. pic.twitter.com/suOmOS0OAl— Devion Young (@A13DYoung) January 26, 2021
Connecting to NFL and XFL scouts through Linked In, he’s been trying to get some attention via social media, even sending emails touting “the NFL hopeful” with an “inspiring” story.
He has moxie, and if there’s a character trait you’d like in a defensive back, that’s near the top.
After all, last fall he tweeted to the Broncos asking for a tryout. and he has reached out to a Broncos’ scout via LinkedIn. He would love a shot in Vic Fangio’s defense, but it’s some former Broncos defensive backs who he most admires.
When he first went to the Rebels, he chose No. 24.
“I always idolized Champ Bailey.” he said. “I don’t idolize players, but because he was that guy, I idolized him and wanted No. 24.”
Young considers his best football traits to be his high motor, football IQ and versatility.
When it comes to the DB position in particular, he’s most proud of his open-field tackling, so he loves him some Steve Atwater (because who doesn’t?)
“I’ve been a tackler my whole life. I’m always trying to be like a missile to the ball, trying to go to the ball full speed and make the tackle,” he said. “At the same time, if the ball is in the air, I don’t mind jumping because I want to be the first to the ball. But I feel like I’m a fundamentally sound tackler first.”
He sees himself as a jack of all trades, able to cover, be a ball hawk and tackle.
“I’m just a playmaker,” he says. “Just a straight playmaker.”
How much chance he’ll get from NFL scouts generally tied to the traditional route of coming to the league via the draft, etc., is unknown.
Young just wants a chance.
“I’ve never had a Pro Day, never had a real chance, and I just want to prove myself right, not necessarily try to prove anyone wrong,” he said. “I feel because I’m mentally tough and because I just love the game, I think I’ll last.”
Perhaps there will be a team - NFL, XFL or other - willing to give him that chance.
Either way, I would never bet against the Boy Scout who sells the most popcorn five years in a row.