Former Amityville star Darrel Young making impact with Redskins
ASHBURN, Va. - Five years into his Washington Redskins career, gearing up for the Giants remains special for Darrel Young.
"I grew up rooting for the Giants," said the former three-sport star at Amityville High School. "And they were the first team I worked out with after the  draft, doing local workouts.
"I'll never forget. There were 60 of us and one of the linebackers coaches asked me, 'What's your name?' I said, 'Darrel Young.' He asked, 'Where'd you go to school?' and I said, 'Villanova.' He says, 'You're too stiff to play here.' He said my hips weren't loose enough. I wasn't fast enough.
"I remember that. Every time we play the Giants, I make sure I'm loose enough to go out there and have fun. I just thank the Redskins for the opportunity. The Giants didn't want me, so I try to make sure they see what they missed out on."
Truth be told, the Redskins weren't sold on Young's linebacking skills and waived the undrafted free agent in 2009. But Young remained with Washington on the practice squad, and when he got a second look under the Mike Shanahan regime, the new Redskins coach had an idea for the 2010 season.
"When I first got here, people were telling me, 'DY can't play linebacker,' " Shanahan recalled. "I asked him: 'Have you ever thought about playing the fullback position?' He's so smart and such a good athlete and very physical. He picked it up very quickly. You could see, right away, he was a natural there."
It wasn't as though Young had never carried a football. His 24 touchdowns in his senior year were one shy of the Amityville record. He'd also made a transition at Villanova, moving from linebacker to strong safety for his senior season.
"The hardest thing was just realizing I had to stay on guys [that I was blocking] as opposed to shedding them as a defender," Young said. "It was that and picking up some of the terminology -- the lingo. I was like, 'What does that mean?' because I hadn't played offense since high school."
Young, 5-11 and 248 pounds, now is an integral part of the Washington offense, blocking for running back Albert Morris and protecting quarterback Robert Griffin III. He signed a three-year, $6.2-million contract in March, and only seven current Redskins have a longer tenure with the team.
Young is nursing a strained right hamstring as he prepares for Sunday night's game against the Giants, and his absence was noticeable in Monday night's 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. RG3 managed only 127 yards passing and was sacked four times as the offense failed to score a touchdown.
During stretch drills before Wednesday's practice, Young found himself chatting up Griffin, the second-year quarterback who has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
"He has a lot of stuff running through his mind," Young said. "I think he trusts me a little bit from the standpoint of knowing the offense.
"On Monday, right after he got sacked the last time, I said to him: 'You've got to be the leader of this team, be the competitor, be yourself. Don't worry about what people are saying. At the end of the day, we trust you. I trust you. I know what you're capable of doing, so just be positive and it will all be good.' "
While 2013 has been a downer for Griffin and the Redskins, it's been a roller coaster for Young, whose only previous NFL rushing touchdown came against the Giants on Dec. 18, 2011. In the eighth game this season, Young scored three rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning 4-yarder in a 30-24 overtime victory over San Diego.
"To score in overtime to win a game, that was probably the biggest play of my career," said Young, who also scored on a 62-yard catch-and-run against the Eagles this season. "People started to recognize me a little more after the three-TD game. One lady at the movies asked me, 'Aren't you Darrel Young?' I said yes, even though I pronounce it DUH-rell."
Teammates such as Morris simply call Young "reliable."
"He knows the offense inside and out," Morris said. "You're comfortable when you're playing with him in there, knowing that he's going to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Even if somebody throws something crazy at him, he's able to adjust on the fly. I'm glad to have him blocking in front of me."
Young, 26, spent Thanksgiving at his Virginia apartment with his parents and some teammates, enjoying a spread prepared by his dad. "Fried turkey, ham, mac and cheese -- all the dishes that make you unhealthy," he said.
Young said his parents, David and Geneva, attend every game. He has a sister, Levada Howell, who is a librarian in Dallas, and a brother, David Jr., an Army Sgt. 1st Class stationed at Fort Hood in Texas after serving in Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, the Philippines and Afghanistan.
"When I get down, like when I have an injury like this hamstring, he's the person I talk to," Young said. "He tells me, 'Man, don't even worry about it. You'll be fine. I'm out here to protect you and defend you. I'm willing to put my life on the line.' When he says that, I tell him a hamstring doesn't amount to much compared to what you do every day."
Young is taking that spirit into the final five games of the season and hopes his teammates will follow suit.
"We'd like to win out in a test of character," he said. "Let's see where we're at as a team. San Francisco embarrassed us. We know we're a better ballclub than that. This is an NFC East game this week and we know what we're going to get."
It is, after all, the Giants. And that makes it special to Young.