Nearly 15 years after his final NFL snap, and nearly 10 years after first becoming eligible, legendary San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at last.
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Young took part in the celebration of the Hall of Fame Class of 2022 on Saturday in Canton, Ohio, where each member of the class gave a speech and had a bronze bust of themselves unveiled. Meanwhile, family members, dozens of former players already inducted and thousands of fans looked on with pride.
Young was presented by his daughter, Kai, and former 49ers owner “Mr. D,” Edward DeBartolo Jr. When Young took the podium, his speech brought glory to God and left many in tears.
“For me, today is about faith, football and family,” Young began.
He first thanked his wife, Kristin, whom he met as a player at Notre Dame. “We’ve been together 31 years, and what a journey. Six kids, careers, injuries, life-altering losses, Kristin — my partner in all things, co-heir in Christ — you embody much of what this jacket and this day represents.”
Young went on to thank his kids and the rest of his family, as well as his former coaches, teammates and even opponents (some of whom helped get Young into the Hall of Fame in the first place).
Then as Young was nearing the end of his speech, he told the story of his son, Colby, who passed away in 2016 from cancer at the age of 15.
“On October 11, 2016, God called Colby home,” Young said with tears in his eyes. “Colby, you live on in our hearts. We will always speak your name.”
Bryant Young's son Colby lost his battle with cancer when he was just 15 years old. Bryant keeps his son's memory alive, ever day and especially today.
What a beautiful moment. ❤️🙏 @Bgr8t
📺: #PFHOF22 Enshrinement on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/DxkcCcmaTI
— NFL (@NFL) August 6, 2022
After his powerful story, Young received a standing ovation. He concluded by saying his football success can only be attributed to the support system which surrounded him his entire career. Mostly, however, he thanked God for His kindness and steadfast love in the good times and bad.
“I keep my gaze on Christ and pour myself into good works, including the pediatric brain tumor foundation,” Young said. “I’ve learned to trust God’s plan and timing, not mine.”
Young acknowledged that, as a member of the Class of 2022, 22 was Colby’s favorite number. He then walked off the stage to resounding applause.
Representing an iconic franchise has been an honor. Grateful! WE not I made it possible. #Faith #Accountability #Perseverance https://t.co/2v2eLHCbCF
— Bryant Young (@Bgr8t) August 5, 2022
On the field, Young was a menacing defensive presence from the outset. Drafted No. 7 overall out of Notre Dame in 1994, San Francisco won its fifth Super Bowl in franchise history at the end of Young’s rookie season. Young would play another 13 years — all with the 49ers — until his retirement in 2007. He amassed 12 forced fumbles and 89.5 sacks (sixth most ever among defensive tackles), reaching the Pro Bowl on four occasions.
In what might be the defining moment of his incredible career, Young suffered a gruesome right leg injury in November 1998. It left him wondering if he’d ever play football again and his doctors considering the possibility of amputation.
During the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Young was interviewed during the broadcast and asked about how he overcame his injury physically and mentally.
“I had to … lean on my faith a lot,” he said. “It challenged my faith. I definitely grew in those moments.”
Young says that thanks to his family and a talented medical team, he did recover, and after an offseason of rehab, he came back stronger than ever. His 1999 season was one of the best of his career as he racked up 11 sacks on the way to being named the 1999 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
In addition to Young, the entire Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 included players Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, coach Dick Vermeil and referee Art McNally.
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