Ben Young an emotional leader for Ford City
A muscular build, above-average speed and football smarts make Ford City senior Ben Young an impressive linebacker and fullback.
Young's most valuable asset, however, is his bravado.
The 6-foot, 195-pound two-way starter operates with a never-back-down attitude. Now empowered with his greatest responsibilities to date, Young is hungrier than ever for chances to prove himself.
“I like taking people out on the other side of the ball and basically taking my anger out,” said Young, who prefers defense but will see a significant increase in offensive involvement this year. “I've always been raised to hit hard and finish the play, more or less.”
Football has been Young's primary outlet for violent energy for most of his life. He played other sports — soccer, track and field, ice hockey. Nothing else met his needs, though hockey came close.
A season-ending ankle injury forced Young to stockpile his energy in 2010. Poised to see some varsity time as a sophomore, he suffered a broken right ankle while carrying the football during a junior varsity game against Kittanning Week 1.
“That was the worst thing,” he said. “I felt like I was letting down my team more than anything.
“I guess you could say I improved over that year with lifting and everything. I got my size up, so it wasn't exactly a downfall. I used that time to my advantage.”
Coach John Bartolovic suggested Young needed time to learn the speed of varsity football, due to his lack of a sophomore year. And to some extent, Bartolovic was right.
“At first, I didn't understand anything at all, because I had no knowledge of it,” Young said. “But I definitely thought I was up to varsity level by game two, because I got to know it. I could read the plays pretty well by then.”
Young ultimately earned first-team All-Allegheny Conference honors at linebacker.
He aims to repeat that feat this year. And he's hoping to become a bigger threat on offense now that he's at fullback — his natural position — after rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries as a wingback last season.
Young raised eyebrows in the first week of camp when he scored on a touchdown run down the right sideline during the team's first intrasquad scrimmage.
“He was more of a straight runner (last year),” Bartolovic said. “This year, he's made some good moves and had some nice open-field running plays. He was kind of a surprise out there with what he did. He didn't really show that at wingback last year, so that's a big plus for us.”
Young's two closest friends on the team, seniors Jake Scoccimerra and Cody Atherton, will create running lanes up front. Both look forward to what Young can accomplish with more carries. Whatever fires up Young often finds a way to spark other Sabers.
“He doesn't lead people with his words,” Scoccimerra said. “(Younger players) just look up to him and do what he does. They picture him as a hero, kind of. He instills motivation, inspiration.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303 ext. 1321.