Young returns to coaching after son’s battle with cancer

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) passes in front of San Francisco 49ers defensive end Bryant Young (97) in the first quarter of their NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006 in San Francisco. The 49ers lost to the San Diego Chargers 48-19. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) passes in front of San Francisco 49ers defensive end Bryant Young (97) in the first quarter of their NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006 in San Francisco. The 49ers lost to the San Diego Chargers 48-19. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Colby Young’s two-year battle with pediatric cancer ended in October.

“Colby was a big football fan,” Falcons defensive line coach Bryant Young said of his son who died at the age of 15. “He loved to be around it. My wife (Kristin) and I talked about just what would Colby think about today. He would be so excited to be a Falcon.”

Young spent the past two seasons out of football helping his son through the difficult time.

“It’s been a tough few years in his battle with cancer,” Young said. “His caregivers, sometimes you don’t realize what other people are going through, but now that my wife and I and our family have been through that, I just have so much compassion for those that care for the sick or special-needs children. It’s been a very testing journey for us and for me.”

Colby Young succumbed after a long and difficult fight with cancer. Many of Bryant Young’s former teammates, including Jesse Sapulo, Steve Bono, Keena Turner and Parys Haralson, wore #teamcolby shirts during a 49ers game against Tampa Bay. Colby Young was recognized on the team’s jumbotron video screen.

The family had taken Colby Young to see the doctor because he was having severe headaches in September 2014. He was originally thought to have the flu, but a CAT scan revealed a tumor that was determined to be cancerous.

Colby's story is captured in this video and it is also documented on Instagram by Colby's mother, Kristin, who is a photographer. Her Instagram account is kristinmyoung.

Young, a prospective Pro Football Hall of Famer who played defensive tackle and end, was a player with the 49ers when Falcons coach Dan Quinn was an assistant coach on Steve Mariucci’s staff. Young, who played at Notre Dame, also coached with Quinn at Florida.

“He was energetic,” Young said of Quinn the young coach. “He was a guy who was very detail-oriented. He wanted to make sure that we were well-prepared.

“He was fun to play for. He had just a great personality and his approach to how he coached and practice was upbeat. He was out there with us as well, moving around and getting out of the stack. He was just a great coach to play for.”

Young coached at Notre Dame and San Jose State before joining Quinn at Florida.

“Same personality, in terms of his upbeat personality,” Young said of Quinn at Florida. “How he affects the players. How he affects the coaches, it was just great to be around. You get the same person because he’s very consistent in his approach. You just appreciate that about him.”

Quinn kept the notion of hiring Young in the back of his mind, while the family fought though his cancer.

“When his son Colby got sick, he was able to be with him during the time that Colby needed him most,” Quinn said.

Quinn, who coached from 2001-04 with the 49ers, knew Young wanted to get back into coaching.

“He was going to coach somewhere this year,” Quinn said. “It might not have been here, but when the (opportunity) came … that’s where it became really clear that he was the best guy for the opportunity.”

Young, 45, played for the 49ers from 1994-2007. He played in 208 games and had 89.5 sacks over his career. He was one of 94 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2017.

Some star players have a difficult time making the transition into coaching.

“I did some homework and thought about it,” Young said. “The transition for me was a good one. I (was a graduate assistant) first. I just wanted to make sure that I learned some things before I stepped on the grass and started coaching full-time.”

He valued his time as a graduate assistant the most.

“I got a chance to get my feet wet that way,” Young said. “The next step happened as a full-time coach.”

Young will be charged with continuing the growth of the team’s defensive line.

“I’m fair,” Young said. “I’m firm. I like to have fun out there. Upbeat. I love to just hold guys accountable to what we are doing and what we are all about. So, I like to stay on top of things as well and take the extra time to do what necessary.”

Young was one of the few coaches in Flowery Branch working this week.

“Just getting caught up on the defense,” Young said. “Breaking down some film of the guys who are coming out this year and looking at the free-agent market as well. I was just doing some leg work before we get started and things get rolling pretty fast.”

Quinn was elated to land Young.

“Man, are we fortunate to have him here,” Quinn said. “You’ve heard me use that term, ‘that guy’s a pro,’” Quinn said. “He’s the first one to set what the standard of what a pro was. Fortunately, for me, for the first time in the league I got to see it. There are a lot of people that have had to measure up to that standard throughout the years.”

Jess Simpson, who was hired as a defensive assistant, looks forward to working with Young.

“I’m going to work hard and do anything that I can to help support the whole defensive staff,” said Simpson, who was briefly with Georgia State after a long career at Buford High. “Obviously, help support Bryant Young. He’s a great guy. A great human being and a great player. Obviously, as good of a player that he was, he’s a better person. I look forward to working with him as well.”

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