HENDERSON, Nev. — When Chase Young was dominating anyone who tried to block him at Ohio State, or maybe even at the end of a fantastic rookie season in the NFL, it wasn’t hard to envision him being in a Super Bowl.
The path to Super Bowl LVIII wasn’t what he or anyone else figured on.
Young went from a star with the Washington Commanders to a long road of injuries and ineffectiveness. He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers during the season. He had just 2.5 sacks in nine regular-season games as a backup, though he became a starter in the postseason.
His rookie season in 2020, when he won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted second overall, seems like a long time ago even if it isn’t.
“I feel like nobody envisions themselves getting hurt or bad things happening in their life,” Young said at the 49ers’ media availability on Tuesday. “But we all know it’s a part of life. It all matters how you respond to adversity.”
Young is in the Super Bowl and he’s grateful for that, because the road to it hasn’t been easy.
Chase Young's career started hot
At the end of the 2020 season, Young looked like a can’t-miss star. In many ways he already was a star.
At Ohio State, he was one of the most dominant pass rushers college football has seen in many years. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist and a consensus All-American. He won the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both of which go to the best defensive player in college football. He was drafted second overall, behind Joe Burrow and ahead of quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
“I’ll just say this, he’s the best player I saw this year, on offense or defense,” former NFL general manager Scot McCloughan said in 2020 to “The Kevin Sheehan Show,” via 247 Sports. “He’s one of the best defensive ends in my 28 years I’ve scouted.”
And Young’s rookie year was fantastic. With 7.5 sacks, he looked like he’d be one of the NFL’s elite defenders for many years.
Then he tore his ACL in Week 10 of his second season. He had a long recovery and played just three games in 2022. He had 7.5 sacks as a rookie and 1.5 sacks in the next two seasons combined. Washington didn’t pick up Young’s fifth-year option.
The injuries became the big reason his career stalled.
“It’s a part of life, man. Part of the game,” Young said. “You’re going to have those. It’s all how you respond.”
A trade to the 49ers didn’t lead to a complete career revival, but it did lead to a Super Bowl.
Young happy to be in Super Bowl
Young was off to a good start with Washington this season with five sacks when he was traded.
Young was traded to a 49ers team that has invested heavily in the defensive line, so he wasn’t needed to be a starter right away. He’s not a star on this 49ers defense but just part of a deep line, and he’s grateful to end up in a Super Bowl.
“It's something I can tell my kids when I have them one day,” Young said. "I can tell my kids about this special opportunity. This is great, man. It's something you can't put into words. You've been playing football for so long, the Super Bowl is something you want to go to, but it's not something you make happen by yourself. It's a real blessing."
Young will be a free agent in a little more than a month, and an interesting one. Young has that lofty draft pedigree and some great tape from his play at Ohio State and his rookie season. A good start to this season with Washington might lead a team to believe that Young can recapture his top form another year removed from his knee issues. A big Super Bowl pressuring Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes could add some dollars to his next contract.
Young is just 24 years old. He believes there are more chapters to be written in his football career.
"Yeah man, I ain’t stopping no time soon," Young said.