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BYU men's volleyball: Devin Young goes from unwanted walk-on to star middle blocker

Published: Wednesday, April 30 2014 6:54 a.m. MDT

BYU's Devin Young (19) puts down a kill over Stanford's James Shaw (8) during a match against the Stanford Cardinals Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Smith Fieldhouse South Field in Provo. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) BYU's Devin Young (19) puts down a kill over Stanford's James Shaw (8) during a match against the Stanford Cardinals Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Smith Fieldhouse South Field in Provo. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

PROVO — All things considered, it’s remarkable BYU senior Devin Young is where he’s at entering the NCAA championships.

The lanky, unassuming senior middle blocker enters the NCAA men’s volleyball Final Four this week in Chicago an integral part of the team’s success. A starter at the crucial middle blocker position, Young is second on the team in both blocks and service aces and third in total kills.

Much more than stats is Young’s senior presence and leadership, which has added considerably to the team’s success.

“He’s a leader and he works super hard every day,” said teammate Taylor Sander. “He’s a great role model to all the guys … he’s one of the best middle blockers in the nation I feel like, so he contributes a lot and in a lot of different ways.”

BYU's Devin Young (19) puts down a kill over Stanford's James Shaw (8) during a match against the Stanford Cardinals Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Smith Fieldhouse South Field in Provo. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) BYU's Devin Young (19) puts down a kill over Stanford's James Shaw (8) during a match against the Stanford Cardinals Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Smith Fieldhouse South Field in Provo. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

No one, particularly Young himself, envisioned his current role upon entering BYU.

The 6-foot-9 Young hails from McMurray, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where he had gained some experience playing high school volleyball. Despite that experience, no one came calling with a scholarship or even a walk-on offer upon his graduation, much less a prime program such as BYU.

With volleyball seemingly in the rearview mirror, Young took an academic scholarship to BYU with no thought whatsoever of even trying out for the team.

Despite not thinking volleyball was in his future, others, including his high school coach, thought otherwise.

“My school coach had mentioned to me I should try out and I literally laughed when he said it,” Young recalled. “I was like, ‘yeah right, I can’t play with those guys.’ ”

BYU's Devin Young serves the ball during a men's volleyball match against UCSB at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) BYU's Devin Young serves the ball during a men's volleyball match against UCSB at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

But due to some continued prodding from his coach, family members and others, Young finally agreed to give it a go. In fall of 2008 he decided to work out with a BYU team that included big hitters such as Ivan Perez and Russell Holmes at the time.

His debut as a freshman wasn't exactly seamless.

“I remember guys like Ivan Perez so mad at me and (thinking), ‘Why is this guy on the court? I hate playing with him,’ ” laughed Young. “I look back at it and wonder why I kept coming back.”

Young redshirted his freshman year while warranting no playing time and not even a spot on the team at the year's conclusion. He then left for an LDS Church mission to Long Beach, California, before starting the walk-on process all over again upon his return.

His first year back off his mission went much like the first; no playing time and not a spot with the regular team at the end of the year. Undaunted, Young returned for the next year and finally began to feel he belonged.

“It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I felt I could actually be out there on the court playing,” Young said.

Despite his gains in both confidence and ability, Young remained on the bench as a sophomore before coming to make significant contributions as a junior. That year he played the role of backup middle blocker — making a key contribution to a team that came just one game short of a national championship.

This year, the middle blocker spot has been all his and he's responded well with his workman-like approach.

“Devin’s impact I think has been more subtle perhaps,” said BYU coach Chris McGown. “He’s not your traditional star in that he’s not a terribly flamboyant character. He’s just a solid, kind-of-work guy.”

He's someone who has put in a lot of time — more than most in becoming the player he is today.

“The impact for me has been with his day-to-day work ethic,” McGown said. “He’s always the guys asking questions … he’s always soliciting coaching and he’s always trying real hard and he’s a really intense competitor.”

Young now has one, and hopefully two games, left until he ends his completely unanticipated career at BYU. It's a career he's thoroughly enjoyed given the amount of work and determination he's put in.

“I love it,” Young said of his volleyball experience. “I love volleyball. I love being in this gym. The teammates are awesome and just looking back now I couldn’t imagine being at BYU without it.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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