Kyle Young (right) earned the Mr. Football title in 1996 and went on to be an outstanding student and offensive lineman at Clemson University. Today he is an associate athletic director at his alma mater.
Photo courtesy of IPTAY Media
It is one of the great ironies in football: the game’s largest, strongest players are often the most overlooked. Offensive linemen are the semi-anonymous players who toil in the trenches without much notice. It is one reason the announcement of the second-ever Mr. Football award surprised everyone in the room. Even the winner.
“When they called my name it was definitely a shock,” recalls Kyle Young, who played at Daniel High School. “I remember thinking it was an honor just to be invited. Linemen don’t usually get that kind of attention.”
Young descended from a football family that bled Clemson orange. Young’s grandfather, Ed McLendon, played for Clemson’s 1939 Cotton Bowl team. His brother, Will Young, lettered in football for Clemson from 1992 to 1995. He even married into a football family: his father-in-law lettered in football at Clemson in the late ’60s. To no one’s surprise, Kyle followed in his family’s footsteps and played college football for the Tigers.
“It was great for me,” says Young, who grew up just a few miles away from Memorial Stadium. “Everything I have I owe to Clemson.”
Young entered the Tigers’ starting lineup in 1998 and became a frontline fixture there for the next four seasons. Sure, Young was big, strong and agile. He was also smart. “Like having a second coach on the field,” according to Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. Young was a powerful force on the football field and just as strong in the classroom.
“I was taught to make the most of everything I do,” says Young, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in secondary education. He is the only athlete in school history to be named a first-team Academic All-American three times.
“The only thing I regret is not winning a championship of some kind,” says Young, who played in three bowl games.
After graduating as one of Clemson’s most decorated athletes, Young stayed connected to his alma mater and hometown by taking a job in the Tigers’ athletic department. Today, he is the associate athletic director who oversees the school’s Olympic sports programs.
Being named Mr. Football was the first of many awards that eventually came Young’s way. It remains one of his most cherished accomplishments.
“When you look at that list [of Mr. Football winners] and see some of the guys that followed me,” he says, “it’s really humbling.”