Nov. 7, 2008
Starting freshman year of college can be a daunting task. Starting in your first career college football game, however, now that can be an experience all in itself. Lawrence Young arrived on campus hoping to make an immediate impact on the playing field, and he did just that against NC State in the first game of the 2007 season.
Young, a sophomore from Pensacola, Fla., was called into action because of injuries to fellow linebackers Cory Hogue and Jordan Richards. After seeing Kevin Smith take the first play from scrimmage 80 yards for a touchdown, he knew it was the defense's job to make a play. On the opening NC State drive, Young recorded his first career tackle and interception.
"When I made the first interception, I didn't really know what to think because I was just so excited," Young said. "I was ready to celebrate with my teammates. We had a big play and got off the field. That was our goal, to get off the field."
Although just in his second year in 2008, Young knows the importance of playing well when UCF heads out of conference to take on a marquee opponent.
"When we play out of conference, the key is to win so that we get respect because a lot of people don't like to give us respect since we are in Conference USA," Young said. "When we play against big schools, that is a boost for our school and team."
Being in high school just two years ago, Young has made a quick transition to playing at the college level. Last season he finished the year with 33 total tackles, and was second on the team in forced fumbles, causing two. Although Young has made a quick transition to the college ranks, he admits the game is a lot different from high school.
"The biggest difference is speed of the game," admitted Young. "You have to be able to read quicker, play faster and understand the keys to know what the play is."
When linebackers coach Dave Huxtable was promoted to defensive coordinator, Geoff Collins came over from Alabama to coach last spring. In his first season under Collins, Young has flourished in becoming a disrupter on defense.
Although Young has seen two different coaches in two seasons, he admits the two have their differences, but also share a lot of coaching philosophies.
"Coach Collins is more laid back. He talks and explains more to you," Young said. "Coach Huxtable is more of the vocal type. He explains too, but he gets to you more in a different way."
Also helping Young make his transition to the next level have been fellow linebackers Hogue and Chance Henderson. The veterans give him the mentoring and motivation he needs to make big plays.
"They have helped me a lot. When I see Hogue play at a high intensity, it makes me want to play at a high intensity too," described Young. "It is the same with Chance. When he makes a big play, it makes me want to make a big play right after him."
Henderson knew how Young felt when playing immediately as a freshman. Henderson started the last three games of the 2006 season as a rookie and realizes the importance of being involved in the defense early on.
"It is definitely very tough not from just the physical standpoint, but just the mental standpoint," Henderson said. "Lawrence is very smart and quick. He also knows how to play and put his head in there and get down and physical. That is what we love about Lawrence; he will stick his head in there and get the contact that we need."
During Young's two-year tenure at UCF, he has come to respect head coach George O'Leary's emphasis on discipline and academics. Young noted that although O'Leary can be tough on the field, he is a great mentor off it.
Another strong influence in Young's life has been his family. He attributes much of his success to the positive outlook on life that they give him.
"They have influenced me in a positive way," he said. "They have been there for me. They come to all the games, and have stuck by through high school and little league. When things go wrong for me, they tend to keep my head up. In a positive way, they bring me up."
When it comes to improving his game, Young knows there is still a great deal to learn. He noted the need to work on his skills and to get his weight up more. Although he recorded his first career interception in his college debut, Young admits that when it comes to recording an interception or sack, he prefers to wreak havoc on the quarterback.
"I would say a big sack [is what I prefer]. I get more out of the sack than an interception. It gets the crowd going more too."
- Eric DeSalvo