Deangelo Blair-Young was enjoying the final semester of his junior year at South Mecklenburg High school, also working diligently to get ready for his senior season on and off the football field when the unthinkable happened.
On April 13, his father, Darryl Young, 56, died from complications related to pneumonia.
All of the sudden, the 17-year-old’s father, “best friend and biggest fan” was gone.
“That day (April 13), I just felt like the life was being taken out of me,” Blair-Young said. “My dad was not only my best friend and biggest fan, but he was like a super hero to me. I had seen him overcome so much in his life, that I never imagined that we would lose him. But I also tried to be strong and not show that much emotion, because I wanted to be there from my mom (Cindy Blair-Young) and my (younger) sister, Aniya (a rising junior at South Mecklenburg and Sabres’ basketball player).
“My dad had always taught me that in life no matter what happens don’t get too down. You just have to keep moving forward. I think he would be proud of the way I have handled myself.”
On the worst day of life, Deangelo Blair-Young decided that he “would use his father’s passing as motivation,” and dedicate his senior season to his memory.
People always asked me what I wanted to do when I got older and I would say, I want to be a football player. Then they say, you need a plan B. I always say, I don’t want plan B to get in the way of plan A.
Blair-Young has worked tirelessly since then, as the 5-foot-10, 206-pound running back, can bench press 335 pounds, squat 600, power clean 315 pounds and run a 4.6, 40-yard dash. He says he is working improve all of those numbers, and recently bench pressed 315 six times after a workout, according to South Mecklenburg football coach Rocky White.
“The thing that surprised me is that Deangelo (Blair-Young) has never really missed a beat since that day,” said White of his father’s passing. “He had some tough times, shed a few tears, which you would expect. But for the most part, he and his entire family have gone about their business of being hard-working people. That’s a heck of a lot easier said than done. …
“Deangelo has always been motivated. But his motivation has gone to a whole new level in everything that he does from lifting to conditioning to playing football.”
Blair-Young is making the most of every minute of his time to prepare for his final high school season, but says he is eager to the senior year started.
While Blair-Young has been in the Sabres’ starting lineup since his sophomore year, primarily at linebacker, he is finally going to get his shot to be the Sabres’ feature running back this season.
Blair-Young was a two-way standout last year, rushing for 350 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry, while also collecting 85 tackles on defense, including 10 tackles for loss and two interceptions as all-SoMeck8 conference pick.
While Blair-Young says his “main goal is help South Meck (6-6 last season) win games,” but is also looking forward to his new role.
“This is my first chance to be a full-time running back at South Meck,” Blair-Young said. “I’m extremely excited to get this season started and just to let it all out and dominate.”
“We plan on giving the ball and letting him run 25-30 times per game,” White said. “Deangelo has been a great player for us the last few years, but we think (Deangelo) has a chance to be something special this season.”
While Blair-Young doesn’t need any extra motivation, college football recruiters’ interest in him has grown in recent months.
Elon University become the first Division I team to offer him a scholarship in May, while Lenoir Rhyne University has also offered and schools such as Appalachian State University, the Charlotte 49ers, The Citadel and the University of Richmond are showing interest, according to Coach White.
Blair-Young went on a visit and workout at Elon on June 16 with White, who says “he left a great impression on the coaching staff.”
Blair-Young is also performing well in the classroom, where he recorded a 3.0 grade-point average last semester.
“Playing college football has been something I’ve had dreamed of doing since I was little,” said Blair-Young, who admits his goal is also play in the NFL. “People always asked me what I wanted to do when I got older and I would say, ‘I want to be a football player.’ Then they say, you need a plan B. I always say, I don’t want plan B to get in the way of plan A.”
No matter what happens in the future, Blair-Young is focused on making this football a year he never forgets.
Blair-Young admits he not only still greets his father when he gets home every day, but also hears his voice in quiet moments like when he is lifting weights.
“We did everything together, so it’s been a tough transition to not see him every day,” said Blair-Young, also noting the support of the entire South Mecklenburg High family has been tremendous. “But, I also feel like he has been preparing me for this his whole life. My dad has taught me so many things, it would be impossible for not to carry him with me in everything I do. He (and my mom) has molded me into the person I am today.”
While Blair-Young has a lot of special memories of his father, one he thinks of often is from little league football, when Young would break away and score a touchdown, his dad would be right there with him running down the sideline to the end zone in celebration.
No matter where he goes, Blair-Young says “his father will be with him.”
“I feel like my dad is with me right now,” Blair Young said. “What I think about a lot it that he was always my biggest fan, he always saw the best in me, and told me I was the best player no matter who I was playing. …
“So now, I’m going to go out and play for him and try to prove it.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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