Scott Young established himself as one of the state’s best high school football coaches in his 18 seasons at West Rowan High.
He guided the Falcons to 172 wins as head coach from 1998 to 2014. The team captured nine conference titles, four 3A Western Regional titles and three 3A state championships.
Now Young is at Independence High hoping to put his name on the list with the successful coaches who preceded him.
However, Young’s name is on another, much more important, list. Since 2015 he’s been awaiting a heart transplant.
He became aware of declining health in 2011.
While his West Rowan football teams kept winning games, Young struggled. After suffering a heart attack in October 2011, Young said his heart progressively got weaker. The final week of West Rowan’s 2014 playoff run, Young said he knew something was seriously wrong with him.
“I was getting weaker and weaker that whole season and kept losing weight,” Young said. “I remember after we lost to Crest in the second round of the playoffs, I told my wife (Dianne), ‘I’ve got to do something about this.’”
Young saw a series of doctors, including a six-day stint at Duke University.
However, he didn’t find the answers he was looking for until he went to Carolina Medical Center Northeast in January 2015.
Doctors told Young his heart was getting weaker primarily because of blood clots in his lungs. Young said he knew he was lucky to be alive.
“The toughest part was not knowing what was wrong with me, that was really scary,” Young said.
In March 2015, Young had open heart surgery, where doctors installed a ventricular assist device to help pump blood.
Young was also put on the heart transplant waiting list.
Back to coaching
As Young recovered, he wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back on the football field. So he decided to step down as West Rowan’s head coach in April 2015.
Joe Nixon, was named as The Falcon’s new coach. Nixon served as defensive coordinator. But he decided to pursue other head coaching jobs.
“Being an assistant coach was refreshing in a lot of ways in terms of not dealing with some of the head coaching headaches,” Young said. “But there were a lot of things I missed too, like having the final say so in the final minutes. The whole experience last season reassured me that my calling in life is to be a head football coach.
“But I didn’t just want a job. I wanted a good job,” he said. “There were people out there that said ‘We can’t hire this guy with his health.’ The coaching search was frustrating at times.”
Young finally found his new home at Independence High, where he was officially announced as head coach on May 6.
Young and Patriots’ athletic director, Kelly Lewis, organized a plan if, and when, Young receives his heart transplant.
Young, 44, is currently on 1A status for a heart transplant. The Sanger Heart Failure team could call him at any time. He has a bag packed.
Young said he would miss six to eight weeks if he got a transplant and had no complications.
While he hopes to get a new heart soon, Young also is excited about his new challenge at Independence, where former coaches like Tom Knotts, Bill Geiler, Joe Evans and his predecessor, Justin Hardin (who stepped down in March to be Charlotte Latin’s defensive coordinator) have set a high standard.
Of course, it was Knotts who set the bar the highest.
He led the Patriots to 109 straight wins and seven straight, state championships (2000-2007). The Patriots haven’t won a state title since.
Young’s plan is restore the championship tradition.
“A lot of people would be scared of the tradition, the shadows and the history of Independence football, but I want to embrace it,” Young said. “I want all the old alumni to come back and be a part of this program, talk to our kids and help inspire our kids.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help this program get back to competing for and winning championships.”
Lewis, who was the athletic director at Independence for the last 13 years, shares Young’s enthusiasm.
“We had a lot of coaching applicants for the job,” Lewis said. “But when I got Scott Young’s application, it immediately stood out.
“He was very open and up front about his health. After we talked about that, I knew he was our guy. He’s the guy that is going to give us the best shot to win a state championship.”
A new challenge
Young officially started working with his team for spring drills on May 16.
He doesn’t know a lot about his players. But he’s very familiar with one, his son, junior quarterback Bryant Young.
And the head coach says all positions are up for grabs.
For a coach who has spent most of the last two years battling for his life at times, the challenges on the field don’t seem as tough.
“Football is my career and it’s a huge part of my life and I don’t want to downplay that,” Young said. “But in the grand scheme, playing a game is not a big deal.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.