November 20th, 2009
Brightness. Toughness. Ability.Versatility.
The four virtues brand new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he admired most during OTA’s back in May.
Usama Young has all four and so, in retrospect, he had little to fear when New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton asked him to switch from cornerback to free safety during the offseason.
Usually, a position switch is the proverbial kiss of death, but Young heard Williams say, “I like versatile players. Corners have to play safety. Safeties have to play corner.”
Young is nothing if not versatile and the third-year veteran won a heated battle to backup All-Everything Darren Sharper. With Sharper playing lights out as the Saints reeled off eight consecutive victories to start the season, it appeared Young would spend 2009 mostly observing the master.
Then, Sharper was injured in a victory against Carolina and Young’s number was up.
Instead of wilting under the pressure, Young awoke the giant within—intercepting a Mark Bulger pass in the Saints’ end zone—as he made a seamless transition from backup to temporary starter. New Orleans would march 78 yards for a touchdown to capitalize on Young’s heroics.
Yeah, he did his best impression of Sharper all right. He has come along way since his days as a hot dog vendor at Redskins games during his high school years in Washington, D.C.
He is arguably the best-known reserve defensive back in America, following his appearance with on a popular Super Bowl commercial last year with his father in which he dreams of playing in “the Big Game.”
“Me and my father, we went out to Cali (California) and had a good time shooting the commercial,” Young told ESPN Radio Wednesday night. “During the filming, it was said at the end- one of the moments- I said, ‘hey, I’m in the Super Bowl and pop said,‘it’s just a commercial,’ but then I said ‘wait ‘til next year but they cut that part out.”
“So, hopefully, they’ll run that (the commercial) again. You know later on down the line,” the likeable Sharper says with a laugh. “God willing we can get in this thing.”
Could Young have possibly had a premonition of things to come this season for his red-hot Saints?
Of a possible Super Bowl appearance, Sharper says,“That will be crazy. It will be another fun experience.”
As Young handles the national media with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran, you sense his stellar play against the St. Louis Rams was a surprise to everyone but him. In his humility, he credits the veteran Sharper for making him a better player.
“Being behind him in practice, you get to learn a lot from him,” Young told ESPN radio’s Freddie Coleman. “Just watching him in the games, you see him make plays and I constantly think where would I have been on the play.”
“So, I try to envision myself in the same position that he’s in when he’s scoring the touchdowns, catching his interceptions ( Sharper leads the NFL in career interceptions among active players) and doing his thing. It’s just great being behind a future hall-of-famer.”
Anything you want to take from Sharper, Mr. Young?
“Hopefully in years to come, I develop those same skills, where he see routes before the receivers run them because he has a great sense of route recognition and it comes from instincts and football knowledge.”
Brightness. Toughness. Intelligence. Versatility.
“Just seeing him (Sharper) break on different routes, I always ask him ‘ hold on man! What did you just see? What made you stop in your pedal so early?, Young told ESPN. “He lets me know where his eyes were and what the quarterbacks options may have been.”
Sharper is likely to play Sunday against Tampa Bay but Young knows he is likely to be called upon again before season’s end.
“You try to prepare week in and week out for that. Even though you don’t want your players to get hurt. You don’t want your teammates to go down, it’s part of the game. It’s a violent game.”
“I go in and say, just in case I get some reps, just in case he goes down, I want to be able to perform at a high level. I want to play like a professional.”
Usama Young passed his first first test last Sunday in St. Louis.
Read more New Orleans Saints news on BleacherReport.com
Read the original post