With the Christmas season fast approaching, Chase Young – the Ohio State defensive end who arguably is the best player in college football – has spent the past few weeks personalizing one of the holiday’s classic tales.
He’s turned himself into something of a muscle-bound, golden-locked version of Ebeneezer Scrooge. His reputation though isn’t about how stingy he is with his money, it’s the way he denies opposing quarterbacks any benefit or joy.
Just as Scrooge was visited by three time-frame apparitions in The Christmas Carol, Young — following the Buckeyes 28-17 victory over Penn State on Saturday at Ohio Stadium — found himself talking about three very distinct destinations in his past, present and future.
The past was spent in his “crib,” as he described his apartment.
That’s where he watched the past two Ohio State games – against Maryland and Rutgers – after he was suspended for two games by the NCAA for accepting a loan from a longtime friend – a loan he had repaid this summer – to get his girlfriend a plane ticket to come watch him and the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl at the end of last season.
In his first public comments since the suspension, Young talked Saturday about how he handled his exile: “Those weekends I almost tried to act like I was playing a game. I just tried to work out and stay in football shape.”
He said he watched the games “at my crib … I was just happy watching my brothers go out there and get the wins.”
The present was Saturday and he spent much of it in the Penn State backfield.
He sacked Nittany Lions quarterbacks three times and that gives him 16.5 sacks for the season, a new single-season record for the Buckeyes. The old mark was 14 set by Vernon Gholston in 2007.
And Young has shattered the mark in just nine games and still has the regular season finale at Michigan next Saturday, the Big Ten title game and almost certainly the playoffs to come.
His 16.5 sacks are fourth most in a season in Big Ten history and he’s just 5.5 sacks from tying Mike Vrabel, whose 36 sacks, are the most ever in a career by a Buckeye.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Young finished Saturday’s game with four tackles for a loss, nine total tackles and two forced fumbles.
Afterward, OSU coach Ryan Day talked about the defense’s performance against No. 8 Penn State: “To see the defense impose their will, it was unbelievable.”
He was talking about the whole unit, but especially Young.
“How dominant a player is Chase Young? he asked. “The impact he has on a game is just unbelievable.”
And that brings us to the future part of this tale.
“Oh my gosh, I think Chase Young deserves to be in New York,” Day said.
He was referring to the Heisman Trophy award ceremony that will be held Dec. 14 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The top Heisman candidates are always brought in for the festivities and Young deserves to be there.
Defensive players – no matter how good they are – are almost always over-shadowed in the Heisman voting, especially by quarterbacks who dominate the consideration each year.
Young’s play had helped him force his way into the spotlight, but then came the suspension.
In my opinion, it shouldn’t disqualify him from anything.
The loan wasn’t done to help get him to Ohio State and he paid it back over the summer. And he has now paid a penalty. The hypocrisy of NCAA rulings comes to light in this situation. Had he come from a wealthy family, his parents or grandparents could have paid for the girlfriend’s trip without anyone turning a head. The rules are skewed for the rich.
When asked about it though on Saturday, Young didn’t make any excuses.
“I just made a mistake and I’ve put it behind me,” he said. “I’m just going to keep moving forward.”
He was asked if he thought the suspension hurt him when it comes the postseason awards. While he said he “appreciated” Day’s Heisman support, he stressed: “I try not to look at the Heisman and all the awards when we’re in season. That was the last thing I was pretty much worried about. My mom always tells me, ‘Nothing and nobody can stop God’s plans.’”
Next spring he almost certainly will decide to skip his senior season at OSU and head to the NFL, where he may be the first pick in the draft.
“I’m not thinking about that,’ he said. “I’m just looking forward to that team up north next week.”
If the past is prelude, he could have another big game.
The two toughest games the 11-0, second-ranked Buckeyes have had this season have been against Wisconsin and Penn State.
He had four sacks against the Badgers and he had three Saturday.
At the end of his tale, Scrooge was embraced by everyone.
Chase Young deserves the same.
He belongs in the Heisman conversation.
And he deserves to be in New York on Dec. 14.
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