Albert Young led the Big Ten in rushing in 2005 and was passed over for first-team all-conference honors.
Albert Young finished third on Iowa’s all-time career rushing list and caught 79 passes for 705. All of the postseason all-star games and the NFL Scouting combine turned their heads away from the Hawkeye senior this winter.
Yeah, Albert Young is searching for some respect. He plans on proving a lot of people wrong.
“That’s the biggest chip on my shoulder right now,” the 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back said. “I took it as a major insult. I don’t know why. I see some of these guys playing and they haven’t produced.
“They might be a little hot right now. There are guys that I quite frankly don’t think are that good of running backs and they still get in these games. It’s also a politics game. I’d be lying to you if I said that wasn’t my main motivation right now. With some of the players that are going to these games, I kind of lose some respect for some of these games also.”
Young was surprised when he didn’t get an invite to a postseason all-star game. He was shocked when the combine took a pass.
“If you would have asked me three weeks ago if I was going to the combine, I would have said that there was no doubt in my mind,” he said. “When I heard about the all-star games, I was like, ‘That’s fine. I’m going to the combine.’ I was certain that I was going.”
Young rushed for 968 yards on 206 carries (4.7 YPC) with six touchdowns this season on a very inexperienced offense, including three new starters on the offensive line, two new receivers and a first-year starter at quarterback. The defense keyed on Young and running mate, Damian Sims, who received 100 carries this season.
A couple of factors likely worked against Young getting invitations:
1. This draft features a deep pool of running backs. Some experts believe it could be one of the strongest ever, if not the best. Declared juniors like Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Kevin Smith, Felix Jones, Jamaal Charles, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice and Steve Slaton – to name a few – play a big role in that.
2. The scouts question Young’s speed after he suffered through several injuries in his Iowa career.
“They all want to know how I’m going to run the 40,” Young said. “That’s really it. My film speaks for itself. I can catch, run, block and do all of that, but they all want to see how I run the 40.
“That’s really my focus right now, but I’m concentrating on everything. I don’t want to take away from anything else, but (the 40) is definitely at the top of my list right now.”
And the question you’re probably asking yourself is, well, how does Young run the 40?
“I haven’t really timed it in a while,” he said. “I’ve been hurt so I wasn’t able to run it with the Iowa team. I’ve just got it in my mind that I’m going to run a time that they’re going to be satisfied with. I just want to finally do it and put that to rest.”
Young graduated from Iowa in December and spent the holidays at home in New Jersey working out and allowing his body to recover from the season. He recently returned to Iowa to train with Hawkeye Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle in preparation for the school’s March Pro Day.
Doyle has put together an intricate training regimen designed to maximize an athlete’s performance for NFL scouts. The coach teaches players to run the 40 without wasting a step or motion.
“We’ve got eight weeks to prepare for this and we’re just working on the running, the little tricks, the little tips to try to shorten the run as much as possible and just have the proper technique. That’s what it really is,” Young said.
“You’re not going to become a much faster person all of a sudden. You are who you are. It’s the little tweaks in your running and you’re form and all of that, that’s going to give you a better time. What Coach Doyle is talking about is going to help you reach your best time.”
While Young can work on technique to improve his 40 time, he can’t do anything about the strength of his draft class at running back.
“I’m not really concerned with that,” Young said. “I’m going to be in a mini-camp. I’m going to be on a team. I can’t wait for my play to just talk for itself. That’s what I can do, play football.”
Young does realize the talent at running back will affect the flow of the draft for his position.
“There are more guys to choose from and more competition,” he said. “Teams may feel that they can wait to pick somebody up because there are so many options out there. But that’s getting caught up in all the things I can’t really control. I can’t do anything about it. I’m a senior. I’m coming out this year.
“I don’t care who comes out. It has nothing to do with me. After workouts and all of that, some guys are going to rise to the top and some guys are going to fall off. That’s just the nature of the business. I’m not concerned. I played in one of the top conferences in America. I’m not worried about that at all.”
While missing out on chances to impress the scouts at the combine or all-star action, Young feels he can still prove himself to pro personnel.
“I talked with the combine people along with Coach Doyle,” he said. “The only difference between our pro day and the combine is you don’t do the physicals. It’s the same thing.
“Of course there aren’t going to be as many scouts as there are at the combine because you’re going to have every scout from every team at the combine. There are more eyes. Some of them might like you.”
Young said some teams requested he be at the combine, but a certain percentage needs to be on board in order to get the invite. Still, teams have shown an interest, and that’s where his focus lies.
“I talked to a good amount of teams that have interest in me,” Young said. “Those teams will be at my pro day. Nothing changes. I’ll perform for them.
“It might be better for someone like me being in my environment. There’s pressure if it’s the combine or the pro day. And teams will come back and work you out if you don’t have the type of day you were hoping for. The teams that are interested in you are going to get a look at you. That’s the only way that I can try to twist this into a positive.”
Young and his agent have begun looking at teams with a running back void. But with free agency starting in March and a lot of evaluation days for prospects, it’s been hard to do more than guess educationally.
“You don’t want to go to a team with a load of guys at your position,” Young said. “That wouldn’t be smart. You want to find a team that has guys that are similar to you, who have guys that you can see yourself being like. You look at your game and see how they utilize guys. You already have teams in mind because of that.
“Things will start to sort out a little more after workouts and after you talk to teams and then get a better feel of who is looking at you. Then again, it could be a team that you don’t visit that can all of a sudden pick you up. The biggest thing right now is the unknown when it comes to guys and the draft.”
One of the things working in Young’s favor is his well-rounded game. He runs between the tackles, catches passes and blocks well.
“The one question is they want to know how fast I’m going to be,” Young said again. “It’s huge. I can catch, block and run. Hopefully teams can see by my play that I can go over to special teams and help out. I’ll run down on kickoffs if I have to.”
Young also can be utilized in various systems because of his versatility.
“I don’t think it’s so much a system but a right fit,” he said. “Every team is looking for a back that can catch the ball, block. Teams enjoy having a back that’s willing to block for their multimillion dollar quarterback. That’s huge. So, that will be a plus.
“But it’s definitely a long road in whatever camp I’m going to be in, regardless of where the guys are drafted, you earn a spot. The snub by the all-star games and the combine, that’s what’s fueling my fire right now.”
A football talent at a very early age, Young always has dreamed of hearing his name called on draft day. He also has realized that being a free agent might work to his advantage.
“After a certain round, as it gets later in the draft, it’s almost better to be a free agent,” Young said. “If you’re sixth- or seventh-round draft pick, it might be better to be a free agent because they might just be drafting somebody to fill up a spot. You might be in the wrong mix. So, after a while, free agency isn’t a bad way to go.”
Young has had a lot of time to think about his future. Iowa’s football season and his college career ended suddenly with a stunning home defeat at the hands of Western Michigan in the finale on Nov. 17. The setback kept Iowa out of a bowl game for the first time since ’00.
“It ended kind of abruptly, so that made it kind of easier to handle,” Young said. “And that’s unfortunate the way that it ended. But it does make it easier to forget about it.”
Still, Young visualizes the ending pretty clearly.
“You didn’t go out the way that you wanted,” he said. “Being booed off the field your last game, deservedly so, is not the way that you want to remember a place that did so much for you and had such an impact on your life.”
Young believes a lot of factors played into Iowa falling short of its expectations for the fall. He does feel that one stands out above the others, however.
“It’s complicated,” Young said. “The defense played well; well enough to have a better season. As an offense, we were young and the injuries hurt us. You don’t want to make up excuses, but it’s a fact.
“When you lose so many guys and you had younger guys come in…they have ability, but they’re all still learning. This is major college football. Guys are still learning. That’s why we pulled together towards the end of the season. We had a nice little streak. We just fell off that last ballgame.”
Young feels like the program took a step forward this season in terms of playing with a consistent high effort and cutting down on mistakes. He believes times will be brighter in the future for the Hawkeye fans.
Now, it’s time to prepare for life after school. Ladell Betts is the lone Iowa running back currently in the NFL, and Young is hoping to double that total.
“It’s like anybody else at our age trying to get a job,” Young said. “This is just a different type of audition for a job. It’s fun. You still have an opportunity to make an impression playing the game you love.
“I would be lying to you if I said it’s not stressful. You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what teams are thinking. You don’t know what’s going on. With me it’s more, let’s get these workouts out of the way, do what I have to do and let’s play ball, really.”