Alabama led Auburn 10-3 with 1:32 to go and needed a 97-yard rush to tie the game in front of a frenzied and hostile crowd.
At that point, sophomore quarterback Bryce Young didn’t give an unforgettable speech or one-liner. Young and his teammates simply let the game do the talking.
“Really, it was just a culmination of events, and we worked together, built trust in each other and believed in each other,” Young told Sporting News. “In a situation like this, we all understood what was at stake. We all understood what we had to do.
“We were all ready for now.”
It took 12 games, a fourth-and-7 conversion, and a third-and-10 touchdown pass for Ja’Corey Brooks to tie the Iron Bowl, and everything else was a godsend. The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in four overtime. Alabama defeated No.1 Georgia in the SEC Championship game on December 4 and Young won the Heisman Trophy on December 12.
Young, who had 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and four interceptions, will lead the Crimson Tide to the college football playoff semifinals on Dec. 31 against Cincinnati as the No. 1 seed leader. For his efforts, he is the 2021 Sporting News College Football Player of the Year. He joins Tua Tagovailoa (2018) and DeVonta Smith (2020) as the third player in the past four years to win the award.
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In a way, it was also a culmination of events. Young has been on the big stage since high school, where he was a five-star quarterback at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. He was the first African American quarterback in school history, and had 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns. as a senior.
He also played in a legendary Division I state championship game against St. John Bosco and DJ Uigalelei, now Clemson’s quarterback. Young had 405 yards and five touchdowns in a 39-34 loss. It was part of Young’s learning curve, which he says comes from chasing the best competition.
“When you play, it’s always relative,” Young said. “Obviously you would say the SEC championship game is more important than a high school conference championship game, but at the time it wasn’t,” said. “It’s just your next league game.”
Young spent his senior year in high school watching Tagovailoa from afar. His first season in Alabama was spent watching Mac Jones, who led the Crimson Tide to a perfect 13-0 record and a national championship. Young watched the future first-rounder in the weight room and training ground and saw how that translated into success on the pitch.
“It was all of that and then seeing how (Tagovailoa and Jones) grew and led the team,” Young said. “I was young and being able to witness this on my first experience in college was very beneficial for me.”
Young entered the season yet as an unknown amount. Alabama lost offensive playmakers Jones, Smith, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Bill O’Brien replaced Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator. Ohio State transfer receiver Jameson Williams played a starring role alongside John Metchie III.
Young has nicknames for all three. He did this job with “OB,” “Metch” and “Jameo” during the offseason, and he thanked those three for helping him master offense. That resulted in a 344-yard, four TD debut against Miami in Game 1. Unknowingly, Young set the tone for a confused Heisman race there.
Young’s calm demeanor, even after the 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 9, has never wavered. After the Iron Bowl win, Young had 421 yards, rushed for 40 yards and totaled four touchdowns in a 41-24 victory over Georgia. This has placed the Crimson Tide in the CFP for the seventh time, and they will have the opportunity to win a seventh national championship under Nick Saban.
“It’s just about figuring out what is going to take and what is needed. It was a great result (against Georgia),” he said. “We were able to accomplish one of our goals, which is the SEC Championship. It’s great, but we also understood that it wouldn’t have anything to do with winning a game against Cincinnati.”
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Young is immersed in “The Process”. He’s recited Saban’s phrase about creating personal value within the squad, and it’s clear the quarterback seems destined for the same success that Tagovailoa and Jones are enjoying at the next level. Young, however, maintains the maturity that comes with staying in the present. Young was one of SN’s Alabama First Team All-Americans along with Williams, tackle Evan Neal and linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
In that setup, Young said it was all about preparing for the next moment.
“It’s one of the beauties of being at Bama,” Young said. “You know that if you take care of your business on the ground as a team and win, individual accolades and awards aren’t something you have to worry about. We all understand that, and it’s a lot easier to focus on what’s important, and that’s winning games. “