(EDITOR’S NOTE: To listen to Bryant Young, just click on the following link: Ep 108: Hall of Famer Bryant Young Returns To The Show | Spreaker)
“Canton was built for men like Bryant Young.”
Those words were spoken a year ago by one of Young’s college teammates, Notre Dame offensive lineman Aaron Taylor, and he wasn’t talking only of Young’s play on the field. He was talking about his character, too.
“He’s always had a Christian heart,” Taylor said in an interview with IrishIllustread.com. “He’s just a beautiful human being.”
An “introvert” by his own admission, Bryant Young is as soft spoken off the football field as he was dominant on it. Talk to teammates … friends … anyone who comes into contact with the 49ers' Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle … and they often contrast his relentless, physical play as a football player with his quiet, humble and principled demeanor as an individual.
That speaks to Young’s character, and it must have come from someone or somewhere. Young had no trouble identifying the source when he appeared on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast (fullpressradio.com).
“I think it’s a culmination of a lot of my parents and my upbringing,” he said. “But I’d also throw in my personality. That’s just who I am. I really an introverted, quiet guy … I think just watching by example and seeing my Dad and Mom. How they treated people. How they loved on people. How they just lived life. That was one of the best teachers. That taught me a lot.”
Two years ago this month, Young lost one of those teachers when his mother, Alice, passed away. With Mother’s Day this Sunday, he was asked to recall the best advice he received from her.
“There was a ton of it,” he said. “My Mom would always tell me to always respect people and treat them how you would want to be treated. And that was so valuable to me because there were lessons along the way, in terms of how I value people … how I treated them … how I know I didn’t want to be treated.
“I had to do that in return -- respect people in a manner that will make them feel special in a way -- that will help, and then in return get what I can get out of it. I want to be treated with respect and be fair; be treated with fairness. So I treated people that way.
“My Mom was also a huge, huge advocate not only of what she talked about and what she instilled in us but how she lived her life. There were some unique qualities about my Mom that spoke big to me, spoke volumes in terms of how she loved on people … how she served people. She just had a huge heart.”
So does her son. At Notre Dame, he was a team captain. With the San Francisco 49ers he was an eight-time winner of the coveted Len Eshmont Award, given annually to the player who best exemplifies "the inspirational and courageous play” of Eshmont, a member of the original 1946 49ers who died in 1957.
No other 49er … not Joe Montana, not Jerry Rice, not Ronnie Lott or Steve Young … won it more than twice.
"He was to our defense what Steve Young and Jerry Rice were to our offense," former San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci said, "in regards of being a leader and showing the way. Bryant Young was The Man."
A four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, all-decade choice and Super Bowl champion, Young was elected to Canton this year in one of the biggest upsets in recent years. He was not a finalist in 2021. One year later, he was an inductee. That is rare.
But so is Bryant Young. In the end, voters listened to Aaron Taylor, just as Bryant Young listened to his mother.
“I know this is said many times: The rent is always due,” said Young. “It is always due. Every day. So for me, I’m not a big talker. I’m going to go in …do my work … do what I have to do to get better to inspire my teammates … to make sure I’m accountable to them, to this organization … and I’m not going to talk about it. But I’m going to show you, and I’m going to be about it.
“That was my mantra. That’s how I lived, and (it was) the cornerstone of things I lived by. I think actions definitely speak louder than words.”