Alabama quarterback Bryce Young holds the Heisman Trophy at an...

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young holds the Heisman Trophy at an award ceremony, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in New York. Credit: AP/Todd Van Emst

Craig Young looked at the past and took no chances for the future.

After seeing his son Bryce already showing an affinity for football and the aptitude and ability to be a quarterback, he took him to work with a personal coach in neighboring Orange County in Southern California.

Bryce was 5 at the time.

"I never wanted him to be stereotyped or pigeonholed as just an athlete for someone maybe at some point to try to change his position," Craig Young said, flashing back Friday at a Times Square hotel. "So it was important to me that along with the athleticism, he was fundamentally sound and technical at quarterbacking.

"Because just as a student of history and sometimes the way African-American quarterbacks were portrayed, I didn’t want those stereotypes and tropes to apply to him . . . I also knew that my wife [Julie] is 5-2. So I knew that he probably wasn’t going to be super- tall. And I know how that goes. So I wanted to make sure when he went to those quarterback camps, they knew he was a quarterback."

That little 5-year-old from Pasadena grew up to be a 6-footer and a star as a sophomore quarterback for Alabama this season. He also grew up to be a Heisman Trophy winner.

Young received the coveted trophy inside Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan on Saturday night. Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson finished a distant second in the voting. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was third and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was fourth.

"This is amazing," Young said before thanking his parents, teammates and coaches, among others.

"I’ve always been someone who was labeled as not the prototype, being an African-African quarterback, being quote-unquote ‘undersized,’ " Young said. "People a lot of times have told me I wasn’t going to be able to make it. So it’s been about not really proving them wrong, but proving to myself what I can accomplish."

Stroud, his longtime friend from California, was sitting next to him when 1965 Heisman winner Mike Garrett revealed this latest accomplishment. The Buckeyes star was happy for Young. "We root for each other every week," Stroud said a few hours earlier. " . . . I think it’s a recipe for success when you have two young Black men that support each other, especially in the world that we live in."

Young originally chose USC, then changed his mind and committed to Alabama. He mostly sat as a freshman and watched now-Patriots quarterback Mac Jones lead the Crimson Tide to a national title.

Young took the handoff for the job as Nick Saban’s new top quarterback and excelled. He completed 68% of his passes for 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns and threw only four interceptions.

His season was filled with Heisman-worthy work. Some examples:

He threw for an Alabama-record 559 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-35 victory over Arkansas. Against then-top-ranked Georgia and a defense that had allowed 6.9 points per game, he threw for an SEC Championship Game-record 421 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a TD in a 41-24 win.

"He played extremely well on a consistent basis," Saban said.

The Crimson Tide improved to 12-1 and claimed the top seed in the College Football Playoff, earning a semifinal matchup against fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.

The accolades followed for Young — AP Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top player, the Davey O’Brien Award as the country’s top quarterback and now the Heisman. He is Alabama’s second straight winner, following receiver DeVonta Smith.

"I will say that one of the big reasons why I went to Alabama was I knew I would never have to worry about individual awards," Young said. "At a place like Alabama, when you get to play against the best . . . the individual stuff kind of comes on its own."

Young’s father, a mental health counselor, is proud of who that 5-year-old quarterback has become — a 20-year-old standout quarterback who’s humble, copes well with pressure and handles the hot glare of the spotlight with grace.

"It doesn’t really change his demeanor," Craig Young said. "He’s really good at compartmentalizing and just being a good person."


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