Running Back, 2004-2007
Albert Young rises before the sun. He heads into the Philadelphia morning confident he’ll win the day.
He was conditioned to approach every block of 24 hours this way while playing running back at Iowa during the middle of last decade. His time on the gridiron for the Hawkeyes has translated into success in selling medical devices.
Young works hard, which was required of him at Iowa. He shows up early to his job and will do extra to beat the competition.
He learned those lessons from Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz and strength coach Chris Doyle.
“That’s the stuff that Iowa does prepare you for. Coach Doyle, Coach Ferentz and that program, they train you to be ready to attack every day. If anything, you have to tone it down some but this is a business where you see your competition every day, so you’ve got to be on it,” Young said.
He specializes in selling devices for the foot and ankle.
“The parallels (to football) are very similar and that’s why a lot of athletes do it. The exposure I had from being at Iowa with different cultures helps when it comes to sales a lot. Plus, your numbers speak for themselves. That’s why a lot of athletes gravitate to the industry,” he said.
Former teammates like Kenny Iwebema and Calvin Davis also sell medical devices in Arizona. Like on the football field, they have to be prepared for anything.
“I call it organized chaos because things can change on a dime because accidents happen to people and you have to get to the hospital quick,” he said.
Young finished his Iowa career in 2007. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings and overcame the odds by sticking with them for three seasons as an undrafted free agent. He then spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers before calling it a career after the ’12 campaign.
His stop in Pittsburgh may have been one of the most disappointing of his time in football. He joined the favored Steelers the week they were taking on the Denver in the playoffs. They were upset by quarterback Tim Tebow and the Broncos.
“I thought I was going to be able to get a Super Bowl ring, to be honest,” he said.
Young used a connection to begin the next phase of his life. His former running backs coach with the Vikings, Eric Bieniemy, hired him as a member of his staff while he was coordinating the offense for the Colorado Buffaloes.
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That gig ended after one season. Head coach Jon Embree and the staff were let go after only two years.
Young landed with the University of Pittsburgh as a member of the strength and conditioning staff under head coach Paul Chryst, now with Wisconsin. The two got to know each other when Young was being recruited by the Badgers and Chryst was an assistant there. Young actually committed to them before flipping to Iowa.
Things didn’t work out for Young in Pittsburgh. He was faced with an uncertain future. He decided he wanted more stability than what the coaching profession was offering.
“It just didn’t go as planned (with Pittsburgh),” he said. “From there, I was like, if I’m going to still coach, it would have to be the right situation because I can’t put myself in a situation where when one man gets fired, everybody gets fired. There are just too many other things I can do than having to rely on that.”
That’s when he decided on medical device sales. He began as an independent contractor and slowly built himself up through forming relationships.
“I enjoy it. It takes a while to get established and I think I’m at a point that, I’m not where I want to be, but am stable,” he said.
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A busy lifestyle has kept Young away from Iowa City since his time with the Vikings. He’s stayed connected to the school and program through the relationships with his former teammates.
He and other former Hawkeyes will attend the wedding of former Iowa receiver Calvin Davis in October.
“All of my best friends are Iowa guys, former teammates. I talk to some of these guys every day. These are relationships you’re going to have for the rest of your life,” Young said.
Young arrived in Iowa City as a four-star prospect from Moorestown. N.J. in the ’03 recruiting class. Rivals ranked him as the No. 5 all-purpose back in the country for that cycle. He rushed for 5,411 during his prep career.
Young was poised to play as a true freshman before an injury forced him to red shirt. A knee injury then wiped out his ’04 season.
He came back with a vengeance the following year. He produced 1,578 yards from scrimmage and led the Big Ten in rushing during conference play. Despite more nagging injuries during his final two seasons, he still exceeded 1,000 yards all-purpose yards in each of them.
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Young remembers all of the ’05 season fondly. He’d achieved what many expected from him before injuries hit.
However, it was an overtime win against Michigan State in ’07 that stands out to him among individual games. It came during an underachieving season for the Hawkeyes with senior quarterback Drew Tate leading the offense. It was one of two times they missed a bowl game since ’01.
Iowa trailed 17-3 at halftime. Young carried the ball 34 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns to lead the comeback.
“That stands out because our team had some struggles that year and that was the one game we all put it together and fought as a team,” he said.
Young still stays involved in football by mentoring family members and some college prospects in the game.
“I break down the playbook with my nephew. I like interacting with the players. I was always a player-first guy, regardless, and always will be because I can relate to them. I miss the interaction with the players,” he said.
He doesn’t miss playing. Running the football is one of the most demanding positions in all of sport.
“I poured my heart into the game. Football is beyond a physical drain, it’s also a mental drain,” he said.
Young ranks third all-time in rushing yards at Iowa. His 3,173 put him behind only Sedrick Shaw and Ladell Betts.
“Being a Hawkeye is recognizable. Out here (in Philadelphia), they know you’re a Hawkeye and I see them everywhere. That bond and that connection to the university, that’s something that you’re going to have forever,” he said.