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Michael Young looked to Cole Kmet for motivation during speedy recovery

| Friday, October 4, 2019

Junior wide receiver Michael Young was drawing rave reviews from coaches during August camp. The native of St. Rose, Louisiana, caught just seven passes in 2018 after transferring from Boise State, but with Miles Boykin exiting the offense, he was slated for a large role across from senior wide receiver Chase Claypool this season. Young credited his strong camp to a renewed focus on his own game and not worrying about others.

“The coaching staff kept giving me that confidence. I was having fun. My first few years I took everything too seriously. I was worried about what the next guy was doing and not focused on myself and playing the game. This time around, I was more focused on myself. My teammates were giving me confidence, I was giving myself confidence,” Young said. “I was having fun. I got back to that, and I’m in that place now. I’m excited.”

Then, disaster struck with Young injuring his collarbone in mid-August, forcing him to the sideline for the foreseeable future. Young acknowledged that it was pretty disappointing in the few days after the injury.

“It was a little demoralizing. Just because you put in so much work, for the game to be taken away from you — not intentionally, it was a football play — things like that happen all the time,” he said. “I think I had to put that into perspective, as far as me not feeling as demoralized as I was.”

One source of hope for Young was tight end Cole Kmet. Kmet suffered a similar collarbone injury on August 8, and was able to post a dominant performance in his return against Georgia just over six weeks later. Once Young saw the quick progress Kmet was making, it was easier to see a return to the field forthcoming.

“[Notre Dame wide receivers coach Del] Alexander told me ‘Well, on the bright side it’s been a week and Cole is already catching passes.’ The whole time I was eyeing Cole. One week he was catching passes, the next he was at practice, and I realized this is not going to take as long as I think it is,” Young said. “It went quickly from the first two or three days of being down and feeling upset to thinking I’m not too far out here.”

Young’s recovery followed a nearly identical path as Kmet’s, with Young getting healthy about six weeks after the injury to take on Virginia. His presence gives the Notre Dame offense a downfield threat at wide receiver they did not previously have. Young’s 19.7 yards per catch last season keeps defenses honest, forcing them to take players out of the box to help in deep coverage. While senior quarterback Ian Book and junior running back Tony Jones Jr. were likely excited to be able to share the offensive load with another player, no one was more excited than Young himself.

“Throughout the spring practices and into fall camp, you work so hard to get that moment where you can finally play that first game of the season, to go out there and have fun. To get injured and have to sit back for a while, when I got out there against Virginia I can’t even explain how I felt,” Young said. “I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was so hyped and so amped I literally had to calm myself down. Normally I’m one of the guys that I [doesn’t] say much before games, but last week it was full go from morning until the night.”

Now that Young and Kmet are healthy, the team waits for other playmakers like junior running back Jafar Armstrong and sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Keys III to return to health in the upcoming weeks. Young knows that if the offense can get everyone healthy and stay that way, it is going to be tough to keep the Irish from scoring.

“It’s understood. Me and Jafar talked about it a couple times. I knew right away when Cole came back he was going to be a forced to be reckoned with, I mean look at the guy, he’s a freak.” Young said. “Jafar is as explosive of a player and as good of a back as I’ve ever seen. I don’t speak for myself, but I just told myself when I get back I need to produce to the best of my ability.”

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