SAN FRANCISCO (BVM) – San Francisco 49ers legend Bryant Young is fortunate enough to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a surgery nearly cost him his left leg in 1998. However, Young not only recovered but returned to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in the 1999 season and went on to play another nine years in the Bay.
After his 14-year career, Young had to wait a decade to be inducted into the Hall, but it was well worth it. Now, Young will revel in his recent induction with his family whom he has committed his time to following years in coaching.
Early life and high school football
Young grew up in the Chicagoland area, going to Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Unlike many other Hall of Fame football players, Young wasn’t a prodigy playing the game, not taking up the sport until he was a freshman in high school. While football was new to him, athletics were not as the exceptional athlete would earn all-state honors in three different sports during his time at Bloom. However, it was football that won him over as the star outside linebacker earned an opportunity at nearby powerhouse Notre Dame.
During his time in South Bend, Indiana, Young was asked to switch to defensive tackle where he spent all four years of his collegiate career. The move paid off in droves. As a junior, Young registered 7.5 sacks on his way to earning All-American honorable mention.
During his senior year, Young was named a captain of the Fighting Irish. That season, Young had his best campaign of his career, recording 67 tackles and 6.5 sacks on his way to All-American honors. By the time he finished his career with the Irish, Young ranked second in program history with 18 career sacks, though he is now ranked No. 9.
As one of the top players in the country, Young didn’t have to wait long to be selected in the 1994 NFL Draft when he was picked No. 7 overall by the 49ers. This would be Young’s home for the entirety of his NFL career.
As a rookie, Young played and started all 16 games while helping San Francisco win the Super Bowl. Young earned his lone first-team All-Pro honors his third season after he recorded 76 tackles with 11.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
In 1998, Young’s shin was inadvertently shattered by a teammate, ending his season in 12 games. Unfortunately, complications in surgery forced Young to stay in the hospital for 17 days recovering, nearly losing his leg in the process.
Somehow, Young was able to recover to come back in 1999, playing all 16 games on his way to earning Comeback Player of the Year after he recorded 41 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
Young played 14 years in the NFL, all with the 49ers, starting all 208 games which he played and recording 627 tackles, 93 tackles for loss, 89.5 sacks and three safeties. During his career, he earned four Pro Bowl honors, three second-team All-Pro honors and one first team All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 1990s all-decade team.
Retirement and Hall of Fame Induction
The standout defensive tackle officially retired in 2007. Shortly after retirement in 2009, Bryant joined the coaching staff at his alma mater Notre Dame as a graduate assistant. Bryant took a shine to coaching, joining the football staff at San Jose State for the 2010 season before joining the team at the University of Florida where he coached the defensive line in both 2011 and 2012.
While Young’s collegiate coaching career didn’t last long, ultimately resigning from Florida in April 2013, he did make a significant connection during his time with the Gators. The defensive coordinator during Young’s time in Gainesville was Dan Quinn, a future NFL head coach.
After years out of coaching and raising his family, Young was hired by Quinn in 2017 to be the defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Young spent two seasons coaching the Falcons defensive line before leaving the team to once again dedicate more time to his family.
Time with his family was critical to Young. The father of six, Young and his family faced a tragic loss when one of his sons, Colby, lost his battle to pediatric brain cancer at age 15 in 2016. Given the loss of his son, Young understands the importance of family and blessing of life more than many others his age.
During his years in and out of the coaching world, Young patiently waited for his call to the Hall of Fame. It took nine years, but Young finally got his call in 2021 during his second year as a finalist.
With his induction, Young joined 28 other 49ers players in the Hall of Fame. While many may have more recognizable national attention from Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, Young may be best appreciated by the fans of San Francisco as his 14 years of loyalty to the franchise cannot be forgotten or understated by fans.