Watching Lake Stevens’ middle linebacker Korey Young on the football field, there is no question that the kid is tough.
But perhaps the most outstanding example of Young’s toughness came from what he has done the past 101/2 months to get back on the football field.
Late in the 2010 regular season, Young suffered a devastating leg injury that initially, doctors said, could cost him his football career. Young had torn every major ligament in his knee, dislocated his knee cap and had two fractures in his femur.
“At first when I got to the hospital, the doctor said, ‘Korey, I’m sorry you’re never going to play again,'” Young said. “And I said, ‘before you tell me that, make sure your results are right,’ because he said I had three femur fractures and a tibia that was broken. So it was probably the worst case it possibly could have been.”
Young said his father, who was a college athlete himself and had torn up his knee a few times before, knew that this injury was serious.
“He knew right off the bat when he looked at it,” Young said. “He said, ‘son, it’s a little more than you think.'”
It was very serious.
The doctors were wrong, Young only had two fractures in his femur and not three, but at that point, who’s counting?
“He (the doctor) said, ‘the chances of you coming back are very slim,'” Young said. “They said it was a 16 month protocol to be able to start sprinting again. And I can tell you now, it wasn’t much of a summer for me. Actually, I was sprinting in about six months.”
To those closest to Young, the fast recovery was not surprising.
“He was always ahead of schedule,” Lake Stevens head football coach Tom Tri said. “I think a huge part of that was Korey’s hard work and dedication. He did everything.”
His recovery even surprised his doctors.
“I can tell you a quote by my doctor and I will never forget it,” Young said. “It was every six months we went in and it was down in Seattle and he looked at me, he was like, ‘this is unbelievable, you make me look good.”
“I will never forget, I was probably seven months out (from the injury) and he looked at me and he goes, ‘I cannot believe how you are doing this. This is the best I’ve had.’ And he does probably 300 critical knee surgery’s a year. He said it’s the best he’s ever seen in his life, he’s thankful that I picked him. It just blew me out of the water. I was in tears and I couldn’t believe it.”
When the Vikings opened up the 2011 season against Cascade, Young was in uniform. He had made it back.
“I was always under the impression that Korey was one of the toughest kids in our program,” Tri said. “If anyone was going to get back, it was going to be him.”
Young helped his team beat Cascade 70-6 in the opener. Each week since, Young has been working to get back to the player that recorded over 130 tackles for the Vikings last season.
Just last Friday, the Vikings defeated Arlington, improving to 2-0 in league and 5-0 overall. Not only is Young getting back to form, but his team is playing well and looks poised to make a playoff run.
“He’s a real important part of our defense,” Vikings quarterback Jake Nelson said. “It’s nice to see how hard he worked this offseason just to get his knee better and how much time he put into it. It’s great to see him back out there because he means a lot to our team and our success.”
It’s possible that Young has lost a step since the injury, but Tri said that the injury has made Young a more complete player.
“If you are a step slower, then you have to be a step faster in your read,” Tri said. “Now his other senses are just that much more aware.”
Young said the transition back onto the football field hasn’t been always been easy, but just making a play makes it easier.
“You finally make a good play and you get that hope and you find it’s kind of a warm feeling in your heart, like ‘yeah I can do it again.'”
Is he the same player he was before the injury?
“To be absolutely honest, I want to say I am better than I was last year,” Young said. “Because I feel like anytime a tragic thing like this happens, I feel like you always get better from it.”
Nelson praised Young for being a leader for the Vikings.
“He plays a big role,” Nelson said. “He was the first one to be named captain. He breaks us up in every drill. … He’s always pushing everyone to work harder, because he works harder than anyone else out there.”
Tri echoed Nelson’s sentiments.
“We have five captains this year because of our great senior leadership,” Tri said. “That being said, Korey was far and away the leader with players to be named captain this year. He really is our leader. When Korey speaks up, guys listen. When Korey tells people to shut up in the huddle, guys listen.”
Vikings defensive tackle Cody Tupen says that Young’s work ethic while recovering from the injury has carried over to the rest of the team.
“It’s helped us out a lot because we all saw him get hurt and then he worked harder than everybody else in the offseason to get back,” Tupen said. “And now that he is back to full strength he’s been pushing all of us harder and harder. So it has motivated us a lot.”
Led by Young and a host of others, Lake Stevens looks to continue its success tonight at 7 p.m. when they face Monroe, the winner will earn sole possession of first place in the Wesco North and have the inside track toward the league championship.
“If we lose to Monroe, it’s like Arlington beating us,” Young said. “It doesn’t matter if we beat Arlington if we lose to Monroe and this is a big game. Whoever loses is in second place.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @aaronlommers.