Iowa Football

Despite never being a starter, Devonte Young stuck it out at Iowa for 4 years and found his niche

Senior has excelled on special teams and scout team for Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Devonte Young (17) stops Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Eddie Lewis (21) on a punt return in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Devonte Young (17) stops Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Eddie Lewis (21) on a punt return in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — His twin brother just got out of the Marines. He has an older brother still in the military.

Devonte Young says that is the definition of commitment, not what he did.

The senior defensive back has remained a member of the Iowa football team despite never earning a starting spot, never really being on the depth chart. While many kids today would have been out the door and somewhere else at the first hint of not being a prime-time guy, Young remained a Hawkeye.

He should be praised for that.

“No, I never thought about leaving,” he said. “When I was in high school, my dad taught me about loyalty, and when you commit to something, do it all the way. I have a couple of brothers that were in the (military), just all over. They committed to do what they had to do. I committed to the Hawkeyes, so I was going to be here for those four years.”

Young picked Iowa over offers from Pittsburgh and Rutgers as a prep at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md. He was a first-team all-stater as a defensive back.

He was one of 10 true freshmen who saw the field in 2016, his first college game coming against rival Iowa State that season. That was as a wide receiver, with a position switch coming during the 2018 season.

But it has been special teams and the scout team where Young has had his biggest influence. He returned three kickoffs last season for the Hawkeyes, and it’s kickoff and punt coverage where most of his 12 career tackles have come.

He is a leader for the special teams, with Brady Ross and Amani Jones. Those three all will play their final home game Saturday at Kinnick Stadium against Illinois.

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“I feel like I found my role,” Young said. “Anything Coach wants me to do, I’ll do it. Because it’s not just about one player, it’s about the team. Everybody has certain roles. I’m not the only scout team player. I know other scout team players have their roles, so I’m just encouraging everybody to keep coming together as a team ... Let’s keep it as we’re one.”

About that scout team. Having experience at wide receiver and also knowing the DB position, Young has coaxed Iowa coaches into letting him be a receiver when it comes to replicating the opponent’s offense in practice.

“I thought that I would be a better fit in helping the DBs out going back to the scout team offense,” he said. “Helping them run it and get it right. Give them little tips and stuff, what would help them out for game time and things like that. Just better develop them for the game.”

“I admire the guys who aren’t playing or playing significant snaps more than the guys that are playing,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s a little bit easier to be motivated if you know you’re going to be out there on Saturday ... but they’re doing it for all the pure reasons. It’s just about being part of the team and doing what they can do to help the cause. That’s how you build good teams, having quality people around.”

Young was asked if recovering a fumble after a botched punt return that iced the Iowa State game this season was his career highlight. Surprisingly, he said no.

Every play he has been a part of, every practice he has been a part of have been his career highlight.

“I just live day by day,” he said. “Approach every time like it’s a new opportunity to get better and maybe have a new favorite moment ... There have been a lot of big games since I’ve been here. I’ve always looked at it as every game is big.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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