Al Young isn't one to start a conversation. As a matter of fact, he doesn't say much at all. When he's asked a question, he replies very politely, always using "sir and ma'am."
He isn't a football coach who chooses to yell and scream to get his message across to players in practice, making Cross Creek High School's first coach unique and unlike many of his peers.
"In 10 years of coaching with him, I've never heard the man use one word of profanity," said Young's closest friend, Butch Jacobs, who was Young's boss for the past 10 seasons at Silver Bluff and Thomson.
"He isn't a coach who does a lot of yelling and hollering, but he has a way of talking to you and making you feel like an ant."
He has been away from high school athletics in Richmond County for the past decade, but Young is back and ready to build the county's newest school from the bottom into a playoff contender.
The school boosters and administrators believe they've found the right man to direct an athletic program they hope will become a region contender in all sports in a few years.
AT THE AGE
of 51, why would Young decide he wants to build a program from the ground up? After all, he has no seniors or juniors at the school, and his team consists of freshmen and sophomores.
His patience is thin, and the job at Cross Creek is different than any other he's been involved with. But Young insists he needs a new challenge.
"To me to be able to start from the ground up, build that foundation and to see that talent blossom, of course the challenge of making that talent blossom is what creates excitement in me," Young said. "I think there are times when you become stale and you have to have some things to motivate you.
"And to be able to come in here from the ground level and make something blossom is exciting. My wife will tell you all the time that I'll work at something for awhile and then I'm gone to something else because I've become stale or bored and I have to keep something to keep me motivated. I get to a point to where I've done that and I want to go somewhere else and do that."
Young will be get his chance at a new challenge Friday night when his Razorbacks, who are playing a junior varsity schedule this season, meet Richmond Academy's jayvee team at 7:30.
This challenge is the biggest of his career, even bigger than that of overcoming high blood pressure to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
YOUNG WAS THE
Steelers' 13th pick in the 1971 draft out of South Carolina State, a tall and speedy wideout who entered the league with dreams of being a starter.
By the time the season started in 1972, Young had worked his way up the depth chart and was seeing some action. By the time the playoffs started, Young was starting at wide receiver after teammate Frank Lewis got hurt.
That year, Pittsburgh won its first division title in 40 years and defeated Oakland 13-7 in the first round of the playoffs on Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" catch in the final minute.
The following week against undefeated Miami in the AFC Championship game, Young was the Steelers' leading receiver and scored a touchdown. However, that game ended Pittsburgh's season.
Moreover, it was the last time Young would play in the NFL.
The following spring, team doctors discovered his on-going battle with a heart murmur and high blood pressure and wouldn't give him a waiver to play football. As a result, Young's NFL career was over after showing the Steelers a lot of promise during the 1972 season.
"It was crushing," he said. "It's like something you've worked for all your life, I had gotten there and I'd just had a really good season (the year before) and felt like I had a good chance to come back and start. All of a sudden, it was taken away. I was devastated."
Pittsburgh also felt for Young. They offered him a chance to be a part of the team, filming games in 1973. But Young knew he had more football in him and was determined to take another chance.
He learned of the new World Football League, got a release from his doctor, and began playing for the New York Stars in 1973. The Stars moved to Charlotte in 1973 and Young played there during the '73 and '74 seasons until the league eventually folded.
YOUNG ALWAYS LIKED
to coach, so when he moved to Beech Island in 1978, he decided he'd like to give coaching a try. He was hired across the Savannah River to coach track and assist with the football team at Glenn Hills. His first year, the boys track title won the region title.
In 1980, Young got an opportunity to become a head coach, taking over a struggling Josey program. The first year, the Eagles went 5-5. The next, Young led the team to the region playoffs in 1981.
A few years later, he took on a major challenge at Laney, becoming head football coach and athletics director. Although he never had a winning record there, he laid the ground-work for future success.
In 1989, Young couldn't resist the opportunity to coach his oldest son, Al, at Silver Bluff. He wasn't the head coach, but he served as Jacobs' defensive coordinator. He also would get the opportunity to coach both boys track and boys basketball.
"I thought it was an opportunity to coach my son, and of course I lived in that neighborhood and coached a lot of those kids in recreation basketball," Young said. "I knew a lot of those kids and thought it was an opportunity that I could go in and be a part of that. Plus be head basketball and head track coach, so I took that opportunity."
The results were incredible. Young's defenses were the backbone of two state championships in 1991 and 1992. But that wasn't all of his success. He led the Bulldogs to the boys basketball title in 92 and also led the boys track to the state title with just four runners.
"Al has a way of getting as much mileage out of his kids as he can," Jacobs said. "I don't think there was a year where we gave up 100 points. If I hadn't taken the head football coaching job, Al would have been the head football coach and it would have been like we had two head football coaches."
RON MCKIE COULDN`T
be more excited about working for Young. McKie was North Augusta's prized boys basketball coach who couldn't resist working at the new school with Young.
"You can learn a lot from him," said McKie, who works as an assistant to Young in football, but Young will be McKie's assistant coach on the boys basketball team this fall. "He's the easiest person to talk to and he's very positive with the kids."
Cross Creek's other assistant coaches, Neely Lovett, Bob Polewski, Tracey Gambe, Wayne Baker and Travis Nixon, share in McKie's eagerness to work with Young. The hardest part this year for the coaching staff could be building the foundation.
"I'm constantly telling myself where we are," Young said. "Some of these kids have never played football before, and they're 13, 14, 15 years old. I guess the hardest part is all of our coaches are used to coaching a varsity team.
"We have to understand that these are young guys and that sometimes they may not be physically able to do some of the things we're asking them to do. But we believe that if we continue to do that and give them a lot of attention, we feel like we're establishing a foundation."
Tim Morse covers Georgia high school sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached At (706) 823-3216.
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