SOFI DRAFT LAB – No player gets to this level of football without hard work and dedication, and especially some perseverance.
Look no further than the journey of new Rams outside linebacker Byron Young.
After graduating from Hemingway (South Carolina) Carvers Bay High, he was out of football for a year and a half and working as an assistant manager at Dollar General prior to trying out for George Military College, a junior college program. He then became a Top-15 JuCo prospect, parlaying that performance into an opportunity with Tennessee. From there, his two seasons in Knoxville brought him to Los Angeles as a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
"Honestly, I would say my attitude, the way I was raised," Young said after being selected, when asked what kept him going at each step of that journey. "I was always raised to be humble and don't quit anything I'm doing, and the life I've lived, and everything I've been, through, working at a regular job, sitting out of college, being an older guy, it really pushed me and showed me a lot. It showed me things I can get through. I've been through harder moments, so things like this, I just love. This is a game I love. I never want to stop playing."
A path that unique added another chapter Friday night with an accidental celebration.
See, there was another Byron Young – spelled the exact same way – who was also draft eligible, except he was a defensive tackle from Alabama. So when Alabama Byron Young went to the Raiders at 70, a miscommunication led to premature celebrations.
"The first Byron Young got drafted to the Raiders, and everybody started yelling, and it wasn't me," Young said. "So the reaction was kind of, just trying to make sure it was the right one, but it was great energy."
Fortunately for Young, his Rams teammates will have no trouble recognizing him, especially as he practices some of his favorite moves on the field.
Take a look at photos of new Rams outside linebacker Byron Young from his time at Tennessee.
His favorites are the ghost, long-arm and spin moves; the ghost move he says he modeled after veteran NFL outside linebacker Von Miller's. Young is looking forward to trying out those moves, and also excited about the chance to play alongside a future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher in Aaron Donald.
"That's one of the goats," Young said of Donald. "I can't wait to start training."
That eagerness and work ethic is what led to a productive two seasons at Tennessee that got the attention of Rams senior personnel executive Brian Xanders and area scout Billy Johnson.
"Everybody's done two years of tape on him, and he just shows this explosiveness, the power, the speed, the closing acceleration, and he had nearly 80 sacks, hits and pressures total in his career," Xanders said. "And he is a bigger guy. He's a well-built guy. He's an explosive, big, powerful edge rusher that's disruptive, tough."
"He's two years of big college football, so there's probably a rawness to him, but there's still a lot to work with," Johnson said.
Trying to process this big moment shortly after it happened was somewhat tough for Young, given how quickly everything was moving – "everything's going fast right now," Young said after being asked what was going through his mind – but the path to it still brought out an emotional response.
How could it not with how hard he's worked to get to this point?
"When I got the call, it was a dream come true," Young said. "I knew what it was and who it was and broke down crying, just hugged my mom and dad. Just so thankful. Emotional."