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A True Warrior: A Salute to Bryant Young

Dec 24, 2007 at 10:10 AM5

It was one of the most devastating sights I remember seeing on the football field. His screams of pain could be heard throughout 3Com Park in San Francisco. 49ers fans at the stadium and watching on television sat there in dead silence hoping and praying for the defensive heart of the team. He laid there in clear pain, gripping the hand of his head coach, Steve Mariucci. The date was November 30, 1998. Linebacker Ken Norton Jr. had just collided, helmet first, into fifth year defensive tackle Bryant Young's leg, breaking his tibia and fibula.

"It was an awful injury," Mariucci said. "Bryant's a tough guy. If anybody can make it back from an injury like that, he can - but not this year."

It was an injury that set the stage for one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. During his second surgery to repair the damage, a titanium rod was placed in his broken tibia in order to assist in the healing process and give him the support that he needed. Many doubted that Young would return to the level of play that he displayed prior to the injury. Some even doubted his return at all. Not only did he return the following season, but he also contributed eleven sacks to the defense. He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1999, an award given out to the player that shows perseverance in overcoming adversity. The dramatic event of his injury that evening showed us his courage, determination, and heart as he worked to return to the football field.

Young would go on to play nine more seasons with the 49ers, on his way to 89.5 career sacks. He is the last link to the team's championship days. Young was taken by San Francisco with the seventh pick in the 1994 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. During his rookie season, he helped the 49ers to their fifth championship, a win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Young was named the UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of the Year in 1994, attended the Pro Bowl four times (1996, 1999, 2001, and 2002), and was selected to the NFL 1990's All-Decade Team.

This season has taken its toll on Young. It was a season with high expectations. When things did not go as expected, Young was one of the more disappointed players on the team. His first season ended with a Vince Lombardi trophy. Since then, while remaining dedicated to the 49ers and the city of San Francisco, Young has waited patiently through numerous rebuilding projects, for his chance to return to the Super Bowl. With this season's breakdown, that goal does not seem near and it was time for Young to finally ride off into the sunset.

49ers fans will never forget the heart, sweat and tears that Young gave to this team. He will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive tackles to play in San Francisco and one of the best in NFL history. Even after fourteen seasons, he continued to amaze fans and has earned the respect of coaches and players throughout the NFL.

What are your favorite memories of Bryant Young? Post your memories in the comments area of this page.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • wilcox64
    # 97 never got NFL defensive player of the yr but the one Dana Stubblefield won was a direct effect of Young demanding a double team every time he was on the field......He will be missed!!!!
    Dec 26, 2007 at 8:10 AM
  • Raul Pleitez
    Bryant Young embodies what is good about the game we love, not only is he admired for his talent on the footbal field but he is also respect as a human being off the field, a great athlete, a footbal player, a good citizen, any GM would love to find gems such as BY during draft day and make them the face of their franchise,hard working,would lead by example,humble and a great teammate, thank you mr. D., Carmen P and thank you coach Siefert for bringing BY to SF.!!! God Bless you BY and your family..thank you for the memories..if you run for mayor of SF you would win by a landslide..no kidding ***
    Dec 25, 2007 at 2:01 PM
  • Jimmy
    I am a long time 49er fan , my fondest memories of "BY " are meeting him driving out of the complex and him signing my Authentic Jersey twice . ( I live in New York and my cousin and I fly out every other year for a weekend and a game ) .The first time was below the neck line and last year on the number " 9 " . The last words I said to " BY " was I hope to see you in 2008 . He is a FIRST CLASS player and person . He don't seem like the type of player to blow you off when asking for an autograph . I am glad he stayed 14 years in the Bay Area and wish him nothing but the best for his future and hope that he makes a career move to hopefully stay in the Bay Area as a Coach in someway . He is a phenominal player in my eyes , earning Rookie of the Year award in 94 and coming back from that ferocious injury . I am not sure statwise if he is HOF eligable , but in my eyes he is a HOFer . Best Wishes BY
    Dec 24, 2007 at 6:27 PM
  • Justin
    The one that sticks out in my mind was one time he broke through the line so fast on a running play that he tackled the quarterback before he could hand off the ball.
    Dec 24, 2007 at 5:54 PM
  • Faithful9er
    There are so many instances to be recounted of big plays Young made on the field; his enthusiasm and passion for the game is well-remembered. But the most vivid memory I have of him, the one that defines him the most to me personally, was during the '98 season after sustaining that horrific broken leg, seeing him being carted off the field pumping his fist for the crowd just to let us all know he'd be fine... A true warrior and the physical embodiment of what a 49er should be; tough, loyal, and a humble champion.
    Dec 24, 2007 at 11:37 AM

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