Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Miami hope Palm Beach Gardens' big-time recruit Avery Young isn't the one who gets away
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
by Matt Porter
Avery Young (right) poses with his brother, Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young Jr., on a boat at Sailfish Marina in Riviera Beach. (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post)
If you see Avery Young with a fishing rod in his hand, he might have some thinking to do.
He might be on an early-morning trip to the Gulf Stream on his brother's 41-foot boat, or standing barefoot by the Intracoastal. Fishing is what he's always done when he needs to think about - or escape from - life's weightier issues.
Avery, Palm Beach County's only big-time recruit who has not yet committed to a college, needed some therapy last week. In a 48-hour span, head coaches from Florida, Georgia and Miami were scheduled to visit. Plus, Auburn's new offensive coordinator wanted some face time.
"And Alabama," said his coach, Palm Beach Gardens' Chris Davis. "I just got a call, Alabama's coming too."
"O, Lord," Young said.
For three years, the nation's top programs have been angling for Young, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive tackle with NFL bloodlines. He has offered no hints as to who he'll sign with, but said he would likely choose between Auburn, Florida, Georgia on Wednesday's national signing day.
His impending announcement has meant he has been fishing a lot more lately.
"He said 'Dad, I go fishing,'" said his father, Willie Young Sr. "'When I go fishing, my mind is clear. I don't have to think about all these scouts, I don't have to think about everybody telling me what school they want me to go to, or the coaches who call me all day. When I come here, I can relax and concentrate.'"
Weighing only football, Young considers his favorite schools equal. But he sees minor differences between them. Florida is exactly four hours between his Riviera Beach home and his mother's home in Cuthbert, Ga. He has a strong bond with one of the Georgia coaches - "he's a country boy, like me," Young said - and Auburn has a few players he knows well. Miami, another school on his radar, "will always be Miami," he laughed.
Talking with Avery, the conversation soon turns back to fishing, and he proudly shows photos of his catches on his cell phone.
"This is a bull shark, a 13-foot bull shark," he says. He and his brother pose by the fish. Young is massive and his older brother, Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young Jr., isn't small at 6-5 and 251 pounds. The shark makes them look like middle-schoolers.
He flips to another photo of his brother holding a coffee table-sized grouper. "How much that weigh? About 350 pounds," Young narrates. Then there's a six-foot, 150-pound barracuda and a very large snook .
Last Tuesday, Young talked recruiting and, surprise, fishing while sitting in Davis' classroom-sized office at Palm Beach Gardens High. It's where groups of coaches have come to meet Young while another group waits by the door. They come to his father's home in Riviera Beach . They even meet him at marinas, as Miami head coach Al Golden did last week.
Willie Jr., Avery's brother, best friend and fishing partner, knows the feeling. He was a three-star recruit out of Palm Beach Gardens before signing with N.C. State. He just finished his second year with the Lions, playing in 14 games and picking up three sacks. After each one, he performed his signature celebration: casting, hooking a big fish and reeling it in.
He's not the only athlete in the family. Willie Sr., who was a nose tackle for Twin Lakes High, is 6-4. Older brother Charles "Champ" Slaughter played basketball at Eastern Kentucky. A cousin, Thomas Davis, is a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers. Another cousin, Wesley Murphy, spent time as a tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Through divorces and death, newborns and new jobs, fishing brings them closer together.
"We got it bad," Willie Sr. said. "We got the fishing fever real bad."
Avery, 19, stays at his brother's house, located in a pretty spot by the Intracoastal in Riviera Beach. He likes it there because the fishing is good and because more than 2,000 college recruiting letters spill onto the bed and floor of his room at his father's house.
Avery also gets advice from his brother on the tricks used by NFL defensive linemen ... and college football recruiters.
"I'm not gonna let somebody come and blow smoke up his nose," said Willie Jr., 26. "They know I'm going to ask questions."
It's possible the brothers could line up against each other in the NFL someday.
Willie Sr., 52, says he still can't fathom one of his sons playing in the NFL, much less two. "I just hope I can handle it," he said.
Before they get there, Avery has to make the first major decision of his life, and he'll announce it on ESPNU at 2 p.m. at the school.
Last week, Avery brought home a couple of bass for his father. One of them was a six-pounder.
"I said, 'You've been going fishing, huh?'" Willie Sr. said.
"And he said 'Yeah, I've got to make my mind up.'"