Former Georgia Tech cornerback Lou Young is going to the Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers. And should he happen to play in the game, it will be the first NFL game he will have played in.
Young is in a pretty good spot after bouncing around the league in his first year out of Tech. After starting three seasons for the Yellow Jackets, Young was signed as an undrafted rookie in May 2014, cut in training camp, signed to Baltimore’s practice squad for a month once the season began and then signed to the Jacksonville practice squad for about three weeks before the Jaguars let him go.
Carolina picked him up in late November and added Young to its practice squad, signed him to the offseason roster and then put him back on the practice squad for the 2015 season. After season-ending injuries to cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere, Young was signed to the 53-man roster at the start of the postseason.
“I finally have stable ground,” he said.
Young was not activated for either of the Panthers’ NFC playoff wins. Barring injury to players ahead of him on the depth chart, it's unlikely he will play in the Super Bowl, either. But there’s a chance, which would create a most remarkable scenario of breaking into the NFL in the Super Bowl.
Even if he doesn’t, it has been a tremendous experience.
“It’s great,” Young said prior to the NFC championship game. “Just doing everything we can, putting in extra work, just get things done and keep moving forward. It’s just good energy. It’s been like that since the start of the season.”
'Everything happens for a reason'
Young, who now goes by Lou after going by Louis during his Tech career, is one of three former Tech players on either the Denver or Carolina rosters. Tech wide receiver great Demaryius Thomas and defensive tackle Vance Walker play for Denver. Also, former Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill is on injured reserve with the Panthers.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Young said. “Being here has improved me on and off the field, mentally and just physically, as a player, as a person these guys. Being around this coaching staff really helped me grow up because I was kind of immature in college. It’s definitely helped me out a lot.”
Asked to elaborate, Young mentioned the care he took for his body and his attention to video study. Young has benefited from being around veteran cornerback such as Pro Bowler Josh Norman and 10-year safety Roman Harper.
“Those guys, they really took me under their wing, and I learn from them every day,” he said.
Norman, who had perhaps the best season of any cornerback in the league, “is like my big bro,” Young said. He takes inspiration from Norman, a fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina who was named an all-pro this season.
“I take it all in,” he said. “I’m right under his hip pocket.”
In good shape going forward
Career-wise, Young appears to be in a good spot. Many of the Panthers’ practice squad players have been with the team for all or most of the season, an indication that they see the unit as a developmental group. The fact that the Panthers have kept Young since last season and then signed him to the active roster rather than signing a street free agent is another indication that they see potential in him.
Not that he or any member on either team needs motivation, but Young said he was told by the Broncos that he would be signed to their practice squad as the 2014 preseason drew to a close. It didn’t happen, obviously, sending Young on his odyssey around the NFL.
For now, things have worked out quite well in Charlotte, N.C.
“I love the plan they have for me here,” Young said. “I love being here.”