Friday, April 16, 2010

Moorestown's Young ready to make his mark with Vikings

Vikings RB Albert Young
By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - When you think high school football, Friday Night Lights and Texas might come to mind.

Southern California and Florida also offer impressive pipelines directly to the NFL, while closer to home you might mention Berwick in Western Pennsylvania.

But, Moorestown High School in South Jersey?

An affluent suburb of Philadelphia, Moorestown's claim to fame is being confused with the similarly-named Morristown, a town in the northern part of Jersey, or perhaps being ranked number one in Money Magazine's 2005 list of the best places to live in America.

A quick call to Moorestown High athletic director John Battersby covered the school's history with the NFL. Lefty Robinson played in a couple of Super Bowls for the Green Bay Packers in the early 1960s and more recently, Derrick Faulkner was on the Eagles practice squad.

For me, Moorestown will always be the place I, along with dozens of other reporters, watched Terrell Owens do push-ups in his driveway during his painfully public meltdown with the Eagles.

These days, the Quakers can point to a far more positive connection with the NFL - Minnesota Vikings running back Albert Young.

Young played his high school ball at Moorestown and remains the all-time leading rusher in South Jersey with 5,411 yards. An absolutely dominating player, Young was selected as the South Jersey Offensive Player of the Decade by the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Moorestown was never a traditional power like Cherokee but they became one when [Albert] was there," the Inquirer's Marc Narducci said. "He was a man among boys. A great player, fast and powerful, certainly among the best this area has ever seen."

After originally committing to the University of Wisconsin to play for Barry Alvarez's Badgers, Young changed his mind and decided the University of Iowa was a better fit.

"It was all about playing time," Young told me in a phone interview. "They are both great schools and programs but Wisconsin was going to have three or four guys around my age and I would have had to fight for playing time. Iowa offered me a better opportunity to play right away."

The decision was prudent. Young finished his tenure at Iowa as the school's third all-time leading rusher with 3,173 yards and 23 touchdowns. As a senior, Young as named honorable mention all-Big Ten and Iowa's most valuable offensive player.

Despite the accolades with the Hawkeyes, however, Young's name was never called on draft day.

"I had some knee problems. I guess that scared some team's off," Young remembered. "Obviously you want to get drafted and get some money up front but I wasn't that disappointed. If it gets late in the draft, it's almost better not to get drafted so you can choose where you go. I just wanted an opportunity and I knew I would get one."

That opportunity came in the form of the Vikings, a team loaded with talent at running back.

"Minnesota was one of the first teams to call (after the draft)," Young said. "I knew they had a lot of good players but I also knew it would be a learning process and it's better to learn from good players."

In Minneapolis that meant studying at the feet of the game's best pure runner in Adrian Paterson, along with one of the better third down backs in Chester Taylor.

Young spent his first season in the Twin Cities on the Vikings' practice squad and then broke through last year as the team's third back behind Peterson and Taylor.

Another chance to climb up the ladder unveiled itself this offseason when Taylor left the Vikings for a big money deal and more playing time with Chicago Bears.

Minnesota is hedging its bets, however. Brad Childress and company tried to lure LaDainiam Tomlinson as a free agent and have moved Darius Reynaud, the team's top punt returner, from wide receiver to running back.

That hasn't been lost on Young but he never expected to be handed the job.

"There is not much explaining to do," Young said. "When Chester left, we lost a reliable third down back and we need to replace him. I knew I would get an opportunity and that's all I want. I don't need anything else."

Young returned to the Minneapolis area this week and has begun offseason workouts at the team's practice facility in Eden Prairie, something the third year back takes very seriously.

"It's a full-time job these days and getting your body ready is part of it."

He and his teammates are also looking forward to avenging a loss in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

"We lost by a field goal in overtime and turned the ball over seven times," Young said of the heartbreaking loss. "No disrespect to the Saints but that's all you have to say. I think a lot of people feel we were the better team."

To make another run, the Vikings will certainly need the services of Brett Favre, the 40-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback that flirts with retirement more than a professional boxer.

"In my mind, he never left," Young said of Favre. "He signed a two-year contract and never announced his retirement (after last season) so until we hear differently I expect him back."

Asked what it was like to play with the future Hall of Famer, Young gushed.

"His understanding of the offense is really impressive. He gets everyone lined up and in the right spots. It's just a presence on the field he has that you can't really duplicate."
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