Coaches sizing up Palm Beach Gardens left tackle Avery Young see a top recruit in the making
Monday, May 17, 2010
by Jason Lieser
Avery Young could be one of the nation's top offensive line prospects by the time he graduates. (Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post)
The first time Willie Young awoke to the sound of his son's screams, he feared the worst.
"Dad! Dad! Dad!" he heard around 2 a.m.
Panic attack? Heart attack? Could he breathe? Young followed the yells through the dark to the bedroom of his 10-year-old, Avery, who was in too much pain to get out of bed. His heart was not the problem, thankfully, and he was breathing fine, but he felt like there was a knife in every joint in his body.
"I got some alcohol and rubbed all his joints for him," Willie Young said. "When he was younger, he always used to complain about pain in his joints.
"As he got older, it got worse. It was scary, but the doctor told me that was normal for oversized kids."
Oversized by most standards, but at 6-foot-6 1/4 and 265 pounds, 17-year-old Avery Young has the ideal physique to play left tackle.
He engulfs pass rushers in an overwhelming 84-inch wingspan. He bench presses more than his weight. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds and, shirtless, he could pass for a linebacker or tight end.
Young is wrapping up his sophomore year at Palm Beach Gardens, and coaches already speculate that he could be the No. 1 recruit in America by the time he signs with a college in 2012.
Despite Palm Beach Gardens not having any obvious BCS prospects in its junior or senior class, major college coaches have visited practices this month and could be at Friday's spring game at Glades Day.
The NCAA prohibits coaches from contacting high school players until Sept. 1 of their junior year, but several of the nation's most prominent programs already have expressed interest.
"One coach said, 'I'm not leaving here until you tell him he's offered," Palm Beach Gardens coach Chris Davis said. "I've never had that happen before."
Not even when he coached University of Florida offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey as an assistant at Lakeland High. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Maurkice 18th overall last month, and Mike could be a first- or second-rounder in 2011, but Davis believes Young will eclipse both.
Young is a product of blessed genetics.
His father, a former nose tackle for Twin Lakes High, is 6-foot-4. His mother, Toni Culbreth, is a 6-foot-2 former high school basketball player.
Both of Avery's brothers, including former Palm Beach Gardens standout and current Detroit Lions rookie Willie Young Jr., are 6-foot-5 or taller. Two of his sisters top 6 feet.
From early childhood, Avery was on a similar trajectory.
"From kindergarten to where I'm at now, I've always been the tallest person in line," he said.
After his parents split, Young moved back and forth between his mother's home in Cuthbert, Ga., and his father's in Riviera Beach. He has lived with his dad continuously since middle school.
In youth football, Young played for his father and usually lined up at defensive tackle. Willie Young occasionally called timeout to tell his son to ease up on the other kids, but eventually stopped wasting his time and just let him go.
Willie Jr., who played at North Carolina State, also helped Avery's development. Despite their seven-year age difference, Avery has been able to keep pace with the grueling workouts that helped his brother become a seventh-round draft pick.
"He worked the living hell out of him and he hung right in there," their father said. "He wants to follow his brother's footsteps. His brother's succeeded and he has to prove he's right behind him."
Avery Young never played offensive line until former Palm Beach Gardens coach Kevin Fleury started him there as a freshman.
Young struggled at first but then began to pick up the playbook and fundamentals. He still wanted to chase quarterbacks rather than protect them, but after two solid seasons at left tackle he has embraced the position.
"I like knowing that I'm a big part of the team," he said, bouncing his short braids as he nodded. "If I take one play off, that can cost the whole offense. If I make two blocks at the same time or something like that, that's a touchdown. That determines whether we win or lose."
Davis expects Young to be around 6-foot-7, 310 pounds in college, but fixating on his measurables undersells his talent. Young has rare flexibility and mobility for his size.
Seminole Ridge offensive line coach Justin Hilliker said he already is one of the area's top three offensive linemen.
"What makes him the real deal is his athleticism," Hilliker said. "He can bend really well. He bends at the knees, waist and ankles, which colleges really like."
Willie Jr. said his brother is ahead of "70 percent" of the offensive tackles he faced in college.
Is that praise premature? Hard to say, but Avery Young said he is not listening to it, anyway.
"I don't think about it," he said. "It only takes one time for you to let all that get to your head and you slip. Just keep doing what you're supposed to do. All of that will come when it's ready."
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MORE ON AVERY YOUNG
The Post's Jason Lieser caught up with Young to talk about his progression, his swelling star status and his other passion: fishing. Click here for the interview and click here for more Spring Football Tour coverage.