INDIANAPOLIS – Chase Young stopped the sports world on October 26, 2019.
That day, LeBron James asked the Ohio State defensive end to have mercy on Wisconsin, which is known for offensive linemen as much as cheese. Young was in the middle of a performance that included five tackles for loss, four sacks, and two forced fumbles in a 38-7 rout.
"I never thought the best player in the world would be a fan of me," Young said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "It's a blessing. Everything here is a blessing. I'm just forever grateful for it."
As a result of the attention, a rare Heisman Trophy campaign for a defender was launched.
The 6-foot-5, 264-pound Young went on to lead the nation with 16.5 sacks, a total that broke the school record. While LSU quarterback Joe Burrow ultimately won college football's highest award, Young became just the ninth defensive finalist since 1982. Young still won the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which both recognize the nation's outstanding defensive player. Young came into this week as the No. 1 overall prospect, according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
"I definitely think I'm the best player in the draft," Young said. "I think I showed it on my tape. You can go to every game. I think I showed it. I definitely think I'll put my best foot forward this year. I grinded hard. Two of my biggest things are my hard work and dedication, and I'm going to bring those two to the NFL with me."
Detractors, who are few and far between, will point to Young's lack of sacks in the final three games of the Buckeyes' season, which consisted of the rivalry game against Michigan, the Big Ten Championship, a re-match against Wisconsin, and the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Clemson. Ohio State won the first two in that stretch but lost to the Tigers after jumping out to a 16-0 lead.
"I had a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of pressures [in those games]," Young said. "If you know football, you would see that. You'll see how they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy. A lot of people may not really know how to study a tape or may not know how to watch football, but if you know, you know I made an impact in those games."
Young added, "Being the best defensive end isn't about sacks; it's about being the most disruptive player on the field. You can do that without having a sack."
Holding the No. 2 pick, Washington has been an obvious landing spot for Young in the media. Last season, the Redskins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Young's former Ohio State teammate. Burrow is the consensus first overall pick to Cincinnati in mock drafts. The Giants hold the fourth pick.
While the rest of the draft prospects chase them, Young has decided not to compete in drills at the combine. He will do position work at his pro day, but he will not run in things like the 40-yard dash.
"I chose -- me and my team -- we decided that because that first day of [NFL] camp when I step on the field, I want to be the best player I can be," Young said. "I don't want to waste time trying to be a combine athlete. When I step on the field, I know I need to know that I put my best foot forward as far as being the best player I can be."
When that day comes, Young hopes to have the same kind of impact as the Bosa Brothers, fellow Buckeyes. Joey (third overall pick in 2016) has 40 sacks in 51 career games for the Chargers, and Nick (second in 2019) had nine sacks in his debut campaign for the 49ers, who rode their defense all the way to the Super Bowl. Both were named AP NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year.
"It's going to be exciting," Young said. "I'm definitely excited to play with the big dogs and excited to show the world what I can do."
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