Bryce Young took over as the starting quarterback for the University of Alabama following a string of elite QBs who are now starting in the NFL (Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts). Yet, the sophomore stepped in and did something even that trio didn’t accomplish.
On Saturday night, Young won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest individual honor. He earned 2,311 points in the voting, and was followed by Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (954), Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett (631) and Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud (399).
In his acceptance speech, Young was quick to give glory to God.
“This is amazing,” he said. “First and foremost, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him I couldn’t be here. And through Him all things are possible.”
Young continued on and thanked his father, Craig, his mother, Julie, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, and a long list of others. To end his speech, Young noted how some people counted him out because he didn’t look or play like a “typical” quarterback, but through hard work and the “grace of God,” he is the top player in college football this season.
“I’ve always been labeled as someone who’s not the prototype, being an African-American quarterback and being quote-unquote undersized and not being that prototype, I’ve always been ruled out and counted out,” Young said in his speech. “People a lot of times have told me that I wasn’t going to be able to make it. And for me, it’s always been about, not really proving them wrong but proving to myself what I can accomplish. I’ve always pushed myself to work the hardest and I try my best to do all I can to maximize all that I can do. And thanks to the people around me and through the grace of God, I’ve been able to make it here, and I’m truly grateful for that.”
Young’s strong faith in Christ was noted by his father before winning the award. In an interview on ESPN before the announcement was made, Craig Young was asked why Bryce has been able to manage the spotlight so well this season.
“He’s very grounded in faith, puts God first, and he has this amazing ability to compartmentalize things,” Craig said. “One of the things he says really often is, ‘I only want to focus on the things I can control.’ And I think that has served him well. He focuses on the things that he can control, and focuses on the things that are important, and doesn’t get distracted in the outside noise because he’s intrinsically motivated. He’s motivated to be the best by himself, not to prove anybody wrong but to be the best that he can be, and in doing that, glorifying God. And also just striving to get better and better. I just could not be prouder.”
It certainly was a fine season for Young — and isn’t quite over. Alabama, the reigning national champion, has gone 12-1 this season and earned the No. 1 seed for the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide will face No. 4 Cincinnati in its semifinal on Dec. 31, and that game will be followed by No. 2 Michigan facing No. 3 Georgia. The winners will play for the national championship on Jan. 10.
In leading Alabama as a first-year starter, Young has thrown for 4,322 yards (fourth in the nation), 43 touchdowns (second) and just four interceptions, while also rushing for three more touchdowns. He also won the Maxwell Award, given to the best player in college football, and the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback.
Young’s productivity has come despite a mass exodus of talent from Tuscaloosa after the program won yet another national championship (18th overall, sixth under Coach Saban) last January with a 13-0 record. Ten starters had to be replaced in 2021, including Jones and Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith.
But the impressive manner with which Young has handled success should come as a surprise to no one. At Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, Young turned himself into arguably the top player in his class of 2020. He originally chose USC before de-committing and heading to Alabama to play behind Jones and under Saban’s tutelage.
Despite the hype and the early success, Young says he can play with calmness and without fear, unburdened by the pressure or scrutiny, because of his faith in God.
“I think [my demeanor] comes a lot from my faith,” Young said in September. “I feel like that’s really where I get my power from. My job is just to glorify God on the field, and I know that everything is written and I can have faith and trust in that.”
In January 2020, Young told 247 Sports: “On the football field, for me, it’s kind of about letting go. I’ve played a lot with faith. I’m trying to trust what I’ve done, God and my decisions. I try to play as free and relaxed without holding onto anything.”
Young, who calls himself a “Follower of Christ” and has an image of a cross in his Twitter bio, knows that God is sovereign over everything in this world. It’s why he plays freely, knowing a good God holds all things in His hands.
While at Mater Dei, Young was asked about his favorite Bible passage. Psalm 23 was a no-brainer.
“‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,’” Young recited in 2019. “I try to apply that to anything in life. Whether that valley of death be me being annoyed, me being stressed, a football game, a decision … I know regardless of what I’m going through, there is nothing to fear because God has my back.”