Former Amityville football star Darrel Young has always given back to his community when presented the chance.
After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted high school sports this spring, many coaches and teams around the country started using videoconferencing when in-person gatherings and workouts became impossible.
Now the manager of engagement and player relations for the NFL, Young took part in several calls with different teams before finally thinking, “Why am I not giving back to Amityville?”
Meanwhile, Amityville football coach Billy Kretz had been hosting meetings for his staff and players since the pandemic began.
“It’s tough on them not being able to go to school and see friends,” Kretz said. “We’re all making adjustments and trying to stay together.”
Young, who was a Newsday All-Long Island selection in 2004 and played six seasons as a fullback in the NFL for Washington, not only joined the meetings himself but brought in former or current NFL players to speak with the team each of the past three weeks.
First was former Jets and Redskins receiver Santana Moss. Two weeks ago it was former NFL receiver Pierre Garcon.
“I really hope it impacts them,” said Young, 33. “I think it hits home because you usually only hear about the glory, but you don’t know the back stories.”
This past Wednesday, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Thompson joined the meeting to talk about his football journey.
Thompson, a small-town star who attended Florida State before being drafted by the Redskins, talked about his ability to overcome numerous obstacles.
His junior year of college was cut short by a back injury and his senior season ended when he suffered an ACL tear.
But the 5-8 Thompson, who knew that many scouts already didn’t see him as a feature back (and as potentially only a return man at the NFL level), continued to work.
“I thought my NFL dreams were over after the back injury,” he said. “I was in a brace for a long time and I doubted if I wanted to play football ever again.”
Thompson said he had trouble even getting meetings with agents before the NFL Draft.
“I never wanted to be in a situation where I looked back and whatever it was didn’t work out and I knew I didn’t give it my all,” he said.
After the Redskins took him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, he spent time as a kick returner before ending the season on injured reserve with a torn labrum.
“I never wanted to give up. That was my dream and what I wanted to do,” said Thompson, 29. “I literally had to do everything I could to make it.”
He not only worked his way back from the injury but has averaged 41 catches the last five seasons for the Redskins as one of the league’s more dynamic third-down backs.
His message resonated with Amityville junior lineman Tyleek Hendricks.
“It made me feel as if you can do whatever you put your mind to,” he said. “We understand if you really want to do something with football, you have to work hard and put the time in.”
Young said he intends to bring more current and former NFL pros in to speak, promising even bigger names in the future.
“I think the guys have really taken to what they’ve heard,” he said. “They’re learning these skills in sports that allow you to be a better person when you’re done with football. It really puts it into reality.”