Spring 2021 Magazine

Miami's Malek Young believing 'God has a better plan' after career-ending neck injury

After a season opening 33-17 loss to LSU, No. 21 Miami has scored 126 points in its past two games (a 77-0 win over Savannah State, and a 49-24 win over Toledo). Up next for the Hurricanes is Florida International at home on Saturday.

On the sidelines with them, and the man owning one of the most high-profile jobs in college football, is student-coach Malek Young. He’s in charge of Miami’s famed Turnover Chain, given to the member of the Canes D who forces a turnover.

The chain, which debuted in 2017 under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, gained popularity during Miami’s run to the Orange Bowl last season. It was first donned by Young, a sophomore cornerback who nabbed an interception against Bethune-Cookman in the season opener.

It’s now his job to dole out the turnover chain, unfortunately, because he can no longer play.

Young endured a helmet-to-helmet collision in the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin, injuring his neck. He underwent surgery in January to fuse his C1 and C2 vertebrae, which are now held together by rods and screws. A three-plus-inch scar runs down his neck, under his dreadlocks.

In a first-person essay for ESPN, Young said he came to realize soon after the injury that he was blessed. “At least God let me play two years at Miami, and now I get to stay on scholarship and fulfill my academic role and still make my parents proud. I decided not to run track. I wanted to focus on the brand I started in high school called Humble Child. My first design was a crown with wings. When you humble yourself, you’ll soar higher than your expectations.”

After learning his once-promising football career was over, Young submitted to God’s plan:

He continued in his essay:

I believed in God since I was a kid. I grew up going to church. He wouldn’t put you through obstacles that you can’t face. If I wasn’t tough enough, he wouldn’t put me through this. He knows I have bigger and better plans after this.

I still don’t know why this happened. But I told myself, don’t give up. I’m just blessed. I’m not paralyzed. I can still walk and talk to my teammates and communicate with other people. Just to be able to share my story, that’s a blessing.

I have this Martin Luther King Jr. quote tattooed on my arm:

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl but whatever you do, keep moving forward.

That’s what I’m doing.

To support Young and his apparel brand, visit HumbleChildApparel.com.

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