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Recently I was given the opportunity to conduct an interview with Two time All-Gateway Conference CB Sam Young of Illinois State. Sam's a guy who I've liked for a while now and I feel he'll be a solid NFL corner. He's a excellent tackler with solid cover skills. Below is some info on Sam followed by our interview.



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Name: Sam Young

School: Illinois State

Position: CB

Height: 5'11"

Weight: 180

40 Time: 4.46

Draft Status: Late round projection/High priority FA. I think Sam is a guy who'll impress teams in workouts and could possibly become a solid 6th or 7th round pick.

My View: Sam's a very savvy, smooth CB. He's got excellent tackling skills and he's a solid man/man cover guy. Very "football smart." Great character qualities and an overall solid prospect. Will have to make his mark on Special Teams.


INTERVIEW:


Q: What kind of person will an NFL team get by drafting you?

S.Y.: Being drafted by an NFL team would be a dream come true and when it happens, that team will discover that they've selected an accomplished athlete with a blue collar work ethic and a tuxedo style of play. I've always taken pride in my work habits and my approach to the game. That's because I really love and respect the game, it's the way I was taught. Few, if any will ever out-work or out-hustle me. I'm a confident and responsible person who's tried to be the kind of man whose family and friends would always be proud of. So far, I think I've done a good job.

Q: What are your plans after football is over?

S.Y.: Wow, here I am trying to concentrate on making it to the League and you've already got me thinking about plans for afterward. Honestly I'm hoping I have a few years to decide on what I'll do after football, but I had a chance to intern at State Farm Insurance last year and I may have provided myself with an opportunity to go into the insurance industry. Ultimately I'd like to own my own clothing store, a men's boutique where I could present my own unique fashion ideas.

Q: Do you feel you have been overlooked because you play in Division 1-AA? Explain why.

S.Y.: I try not to ever dwell on the negative. I was always taught while coming up playing football that it didnt really matter where you played the game but how you played that counted. My dad always told me that if you're good enough, they'll find you. Recently when I realized that I wasn't getting invited to any post season all-star games or even to the Combine in Indianapolis, I was somewhat disappointed, but I don't think I was overlooked because I play in Division 1-AA because there are other players from 1-AA that are being projected as 1st day draft picks. I think that the initial scouting report on me was based on me playing free safety and not cornerback and it's probably hard for NFL personnel to project a 5'11", 180lb free safety playing 16 games in the League. This year I played at the corner exclusively, but I was utilized last season(99) at free safety and cornerback. Even though I can play either position I don't think I was ever evaluated while playing corner, plus I'm a first generation NFL prospect. None of my relatives ever played any professional sports so I guess it's kind of understandable that scouts would be skeptical in evaluating my talent, but look at me now, I'm being interviewed by Matthew Gambill, respected Draft Analyst to the NFL, so somebody's noticing me.

Q: Rank your three playing strengths.

S.Y.: I consider my top three playing strengths to be first and foremost my mental capacity to understand my responsibilities within the context of the team game plan. My concentration and focus in this area has helped me maximize my efforts in minimizing my opponents productivity. I've always tried to know the assignments of every member in the secondary on every play. Secondly, my cover skills are constantly improving with the teaching I've received so far. My first college coach at Trinity, Leslie Frazier, former Super Bowl and All-Pro, Chicago Bear cornerback and my last position coach at ISU, Steven Wilks, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, both encouraged me to work tirelessly on developing my technique and footwork for playing the corner effectively. Last, but certainly not least is my tackling ability. I think my compassion for the game of football provides me with the intensity and fearlessness to try and bring it on every down, whether it's through pass coverage or run support.




Q: Rank your three playing weaknesses.

S.Y. It's hard for me to admit having three weaknesses in my game but I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that my strengths outweigh these weaknesses. One area that I'm concentrating on improving is my hands. The last two seasons I was able to break up 40 passes while intercepting just 4. I could and should have had at least 10 interceptions this past season. If I had been able to accomplish this there would be no question about being overlooked because of Division 1-AA. I know it's just a matter of me working harder and concentrating more on making the pick and not just being satisfied with the breakup. Then I've been told that some evaluators think Im a straight line player with only adequate football instincts. I don't necessarily agree because I think that in addition to my straight line speed, I've got better than average ability to make cuts effectively in coverage. In regards to my instincts, I'm sure that I have more to show than has been witnessed so far, but I'm always trying to improve my skills and would never say that I'm completely satisfied with any part of my game.

Q: What have you heard about your draft status?

S.Y.: I recently retained the services of NFLPA certified contract advisor Brian Hamilton from Ohio to assist me in my pursuit of making it to the League. His brother was a former 7th round draft pick and NFL starting corner with the New York Giants. Brian has told me that he's just beginning to hear some encouraging things from his sources that may place me in position to get a look as a late round draft selection or as an undrafted free agent. I'd love to get drafted but it's not so much how I get there as long as I get there that matters. A lot of 1st day picks from recent drafts wind up watching relative unknown later round picks get playing time that they thought they would have.

Q: Sam, have you thought about how much your life will change in the months ahead? How are you preparing for it?

S.Y.: Not a day or hour or even a minute goes by that I'm not thinking about how close I've come to reaching a goal I've had since I first started playing football. I understand that this is a critical time for me and I'm doing all that I can to stay focused and to prepare to take advantage of whatever opportunity comes my way. I work out regularly and have even started a nutrition program. Some prospects that I know took off from school for this semester or quit after their eligibility was up to concentrate on their workout efforts to prepare for the Combine or other post combine workouts. I'm just 6 credit hours from graduation so I've got school to concentrate on and that helps to balance my excitement about a future in football with the thought of getting my degree in May.

Q: Is there a current NFL DB that you modeled your game after?

S.Y.: No, I cant say that there's any one DB that I've tried to model my game after. I've always been taught to be a student of the game not of a player, but I do admire certain players such as Charles Woodson, Ronde Barber and Sam Madison for what each of them brings to the game.



Q: Who do you credit for your development as both a player and a person?

S.Y.: Without a doubt it would have to be my father, Emile L. Young. Ever since I can remember I have admired and tried to imitate my dad. He got me involved in little league football when I was seven years old and I've never missed a season of playing, until 1997 when I had to redshirt after transferring from Trinity to ISU. During all these years he never missed a game, not even in 97 when I was ineligible to play. He still came to every game, home and away, just to show his support to me because he knew how much it hurt me having to be dressed but not being able to play. He coached me during my middle school years and it was here that I learned the value of hard work, discipline and most importantly how to be a winner even in times of defeat. His encouragement and his criticism along with his love and his discipline have helped to make me the man I am today. I know my close friends and teammates would agree that my best friend and biggest fan is my dad. By the way, thanks Matt for giving me the opportunity to give this shout out to my dad.

Q: Rank your overall game using a scale from 1 - 10. Explain your reasoning for each.

S.Y.: If I were rating my overall game at the cornerback position on a scale of 1 to 10 it would be as follows:

Football Intelligence -(8.5)- I'm a smart and confident player who made a smooth transition between free safety and cornerback, experiencing success at both positions. I have an exceptional ability to learn and retain assignments and have shown that I play with a high degree of consistency and concentration by not getting beaten for big plays very often.

Cover Skills -(8.5)- I've got the hips, quickness, acceleration, and balance to turn and run with any receiver. I really enjoy playing man to man, press coverage because it's just you and the receiver in one on one competition. It's third down and six and you know through instinct that they have to throw your way cause you've got responsibility for the go to receiver. It's just the two of you on an island, the pressures on. You stay focused, make your reads, get comfortable in your stance and wait for the snap. You make your jam at the line of scrimmage and then turn your hips to make the play you've been practicing all week. Just as the QB throws the ball you make a tremendous break on the ball to intercept or break up the pass. The rush you get after successfully stopping the big 3rd down play is indescribable.

Tackling -(8.5)- I'm very aggressive in run support as evidenced by 200 plus career tackles (140 solo) while switching between playing free safety and cornerback. I love contact. I love having had a reputation from little league through college as being a hitter.

Athletic Ability -(8.5)- I possess above average quickness, agility, and balance. I've got quick feet and can change direction in a flash. I've shown my coordination skills by reaching around and breaking up passes without committing the penalty.

Competitiveness-(8)- Tough, consistent and productive player who can't wait to see how I match up with the receivers at the next level. I think I'll have em covered!

Q: From looking at you on film, I see you're a great tackler and you have solid cover skills, but at 5'11", 180lbs., do you think you can play press coverage on the big, physical wide receivers in the NFL?

S.Y.: Thanks for the compliments Matt. As I've mentioned I take pride in my tackling and overall cover skills. Sam Madison of the Miami Dolphins has said of himself, "I'm not the biggest corner in the world at 5'11", 185, but your mind set and heart are more important than size." I know scouts are probably questioning my size too, but I also know I'm a physical player. If I can keep the receiver from going where he wants to go when he wants to go, if I can pin him, then I've got a shot at the ball. If I can keep him from using his back arm to push off or leverage me then I can fight for the ball. That's what the press technique allows,but you've got to be prepared and that's why I'm doing a lot of upper body work. Players like Duane Starks (5'10" / 170); Darrell Green (5'8" / 184); Antoine Winfield (5'8" /180) and Fernando Bryant (5'10" / 174) provide me with the motivation to prove that I can also make it in the League as an effective pass defender, all 5'11", 180 lbs of me.





I'd like to thank Sam, his father Emile, and his agent Brian Hamilton for allowing Sam and I to chat. As you can see, Sam's a VERY intelligent guy with nothing but UPSIDE potential. Good Luck at the next level Sam!!!