By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Devonte Young walked away from the University of Iowa football awards banquet Dec. 15 with both arms full of trophies.
The hardware was all his and was all deserved. He even needed teammate and friend, Brandon Smith, to assist with transporting a couple awards out of the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
It was quite an afternoon of recognition for Young, a wide receiver-turned defensive back-turned special teams star. It was also an unprecedented haul for a student-athlete who exceled within a Hawkeye program that values scout players as much as All-Americans.
Young is proof of that, decoratively and triumphantly walking away from his final banquet, rather than walking away from a program where he had difficulty keeping a spot on the depth chart. One of 10 true freshmen to play in 2016, Young switched from offense to defense in the early stages of his junior season.
Through the struggles, down times, and extended stays on the sideline, he remained 100 percent Hawkeye.
“It’s loyalty and commitment,” Young said. “When I was talking to my dad before I committed in high school, he was talking about loyalty. Iowa was the first to offer me. My brothers were going off to the military at the time, so we talked a lot about commitment.”
Many outsiders wondered why Young’s name never appeared in the Transfer Portal; it might have been because he was too busy being the best Hawkeye he could be. His banquet bounty is a testament: Reggie Roby Special Teams Award, Hayden Fry Award for exemplary leadership, and Team Captain, special teams.
Not only that, but during the season, Young was recognized as Scout Team Player of the Week against Miami (Ohio), Purdue, and Minnesota.
Young is a 6-foot, 203-pound senior from North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland, where he was a first-team all-state defensive back. He will graduate in May with a degree in interdepartmental business studies.
“It’s a great story,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Devonte came in four years ago and played some as a freshman. As he went along, other players moved past him and ended up beating him out. Players have a couple choices when things don’t go their way.”
The options for Young were to stay at the bottom of the depth chart and not worry about improving, surrender and leave the program, or go back to work and do something about it.
Young did something about it.
Being as loyal and committed as ever, he embraced his role on special teams. In 12 games this season, Young made 10 tackles (seven solo) with a game-clinching fumble recovery at Iowa State on Sept. 14. His favorite play came more than a month later at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes led 20-0 when Young raced down the field on kickoff and smothered Northwestern’s Riley Lees at the 15-yard-line.
“That’s the one I think about most,” he said.
Young experienced a unique Senior Day on Nov. 23 in Kinnick Stadium. Before Iowa defeated Illinois, 19-10, the Hawkeye seniors were introduced and hugged their parents at midfield. Because of a rigorous travel schedule, Angela and Jude Young were not able to attend. Filling in for Young’s parents were head coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife, Mary.
“I was trying to stay calm, but once I ran out there, my emotions started going all over the place,” Young said. “I teared up when I was running back to the sideline to shake hands with all my teammates. When I was going out to coach Ferentz, it was emotional. It’s a great opportunity to be with your parents, but not everybody gets a chance to go out with the head coach.”
No. 16 Iowa takes on No. 22 Southern California in the SDCCU Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego. Kickoff is 7 p.m. (CT); the game is televised on FS1. For more information on the Holiday Bowl, click HERE.