football Edit

How Notre Dame football's early offer sparked Bryce Young's ascension

Notre Dame was defensive end Bryce Young's first scholarship offer. Now he's at Notre Dame ready to prove the Irish right.
Notre Dame was defensive end Bryce Young's first scholarship offer. Now he's at Notre Dame ready to prove the Irish right. (Jeff Douglas, Inside ND Sports)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football decided to take a chance on Bryce Young before anyone else.

After the first two seasons of his football career, Young made a trip to Notre Dame to compete in a Sunday Night Football camp. To that point, Young, who was generously listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, primarily played wide receiver and linebacker at Charlotte (N.C.) Christian.

And yet Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, defensive coordinator Al Golden and defensive line coach Al Washington saw a potential defensive end in Young. Maybe that’s because his father, Bryant Young, starred as a defensive lineman at Notre Dame and with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers on a path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After Bryce finished his camp performance, he met with the coaching staff and learned that Notre Dame had become the first school to offer him a football scholarship. All from a camp in which he just wanted to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

“I was just out there doing what I do best, and they saw something in me I didn't see in myself yet,” Bryce Young said Friday, one month into his first semester at Notre Dame. “They threw the offer out, and that was when I was like, 'Man, if they believe in me, I have to believe in myself more.’”



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Even Freeman described Bryce as tall and skinny at that first camp.

“But he showed some skill sets that said, ‘OK, this guy is going to be good,’” Freeman said in December. “And now you look at him and he’s huge. In a year, it might’ve been a year and a half, he’s gained weight. I think he’s even gotten taller. But he has the tools. He’s got everything that I’m sure his father had when he came through, and he’s going to be a great player for us.”

Micah Gilbert, a teammate of Bryce’s at Charlotte Christian and a four-star wide receiver who also enrolled at Notre Dame last month, remembers being the same size as Bryce when they were freshmen and heading into their sophomore seasons.

“He was still growing into himself, all clumsy, just bumping into stuff everywhere he goes and he’s playing receiver,” Gilbert said. “He can’t catch at all. Can’t catch for nothing.”

Bryce, like his father, waited until high school to play tackle football. It was a decision guided by protecting his health with long-term brain health under consideration. So Bryce was always going to require some development at whatever position he landed.

By the time Bryce hit his junior season, he reached the 6-foot-5 range and started to fill out his frame.

“We’re like, ‘Yo, what’s going on?’ and then he started playing D-end,” Gilbert said, “and we’re like ‘OK, he’s still moving a little weird’. Still looked like he’s growing into his body, but it just became an explosion once he got to that junior/senior year. The work he put in, though, to get there really showed on the field.”

Genetics could only carry Bryce so far. Bryce, who’s listed at 6-7, 241 pounds on Notre Dame’s roster, continued to add weight as he grew taller, but he worked on maintaining his mobility and flexibility. The results couldn’t have been much clearer as a senior. He totaled 97 tackles, 14 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in 12 games.



Rivals moved Bryce, an All-American Bowl participant, up to the No. 11 weakside defensive end ranking in the 2024 class as the No. 220 overall prospect regardless of position He became a more complete package.

“Definitely, the physical aspect of it, just getting bigger, faster, but also I attribute it to the mental aspect, too,” Bryce said of his senior season success. “Just being sharp in everything I do: film study, knowing my keys and just my pre-snap ability and all that.”

Bryant helped him along the way not only as a father, but as Charlotte Christian’s defensive line coach, too.

“We used to have a rule where football was on the field or anytime I asked,” Bryce said. “Other than that, he was dad. So we definitely had strong boundaries between that, so I know which was which.

“There were definitely some times where we bumped heads because the line would kind of get fuzzy, but for sure, there was a fine line between dad and coach. When coach was on, I was all ears. I was listening and taking in everything I can.”

That wasn’t always the case. Bryce had to learn to trust his father wasn’t just being hard on him because he was his son. Dads might not always be all-knowing, but not many of them know more than Bryant Young knows about playing defensive line. When Bryce came to terms with that as a sophomore, he started to lean on Bryant more to break down his film and study film of others.

As for the recruiting process, Bryant and his wife, Kristin, did their best to stay out of the way, even though they both recognized the value of Notre Dame as graduates and former student-athletes. They empowered Bryce to make his own decision, and he ended up making the same choice as them. He announced his commitment to the Irish last April.

“He was very good at that, just letting me see it for myself,” Bryce said. “He would take me to the place. He would let me experience it and then wait like a couple of days. Then we'd check in after each visit, see how we felt, write down the pros and the cons, weigh out every option. But he definitely let me see it, let me critically think for myself, and I really appreciate him for that.”

Now Bryce is working toward his first spring practices at Notre Dame with a chance to create a fast track to playing time. He’s already around 250 pounds, he said, and wants to be at 255 or 260 by the time practice begins next month.

Beyond the physical growth, Bryce wants to work on being more informed about what the offense is attempting to do with pre-snap reads and being able to quickly counter what an offensive tackle or tight end is attempting to do to him. He’ll have the opportunity to learn those things from Washington, one of the coaches who believed in him before others.

“He treats everybody with respect,” Bryce said. “He gives everybody a chance. He's willing to teach you the things that if you ask the questions, he's going to give you the answers. You've got to take ownership of that, and that's what I really appreciate.”


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