Local Link-Eddie Young is the link of Cal football.

Nov. 11, 2009


-- The only returning starting linebacker from last season's team, he is the link to the Bears outstanding linebacking corps of 2008, a continuum manifested by the fact that he and fellow Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks now live in the apartment where All-Pac-10 linebacker Zack Follett resided last year.

-- The younger brother of former Cal wide receiver Sean Young, Eddie is a family link to Cal's recent success, a connection Eddie particularly enjoyed when both he and Sean had big games against Michigan State in last season's opener. The brothers remain each other's closest friend and live together with three other Cal football players.

-- A graduate of Berkeley High School, just two blocks from the campus of the college he now attends, Young is a link to the local community, the guy who can tell newcomers where to get the best Mexican food in Berkeley or the best sandwiches or where to go (or not go) at night. Or he says he can suggest to out-of-town players, 'a couple of panoramic viewing spots to take a nice young lady.'

Unfortunately, Young, through no fault of his own, was almost the missing link in a critical play against UCLA earlier this season. After leaving the game with cramps, his departure from the field was not adequately accounted for, leaving 10 men on the field. As he rose on the sidelines, Young saw the UCLA tight end he would have been covering run wide open down the middle of the field. When roommate Kendricks intercepted the poorly-thrown pass and returned it for a touchdown, no one was more relieved than Young.

A versatile player who has played all three linebacker spots --weak-side, strong-side and inside -- Young is a valuable player, not only for his football skills but for his personality. He wins the team award for best smile, and he is proud of his abilities when it comes to music and food.

'I consider myself a music connoisseur,' Young said. 'I have about 8,000 songs on my iPod. And I can cook. I make a mean spaghetti, and I can barbecue. You can't let the chicken dry out.'

Young demonstrated his love for music and cooking through his animated and detailed descriptions. His personality and his dreadlocks give him an identity on the field while distinguishing him from his brother, who kept his hair short while at Cal.

Sean is 2 ½ years older than Eddie -- whose real name is Hendry Edward Young II, known only to his family as Edward -- but Sean was one of the reasons Eddie chose to stay close to home and go to Cal.

'He was more excited than I was,' Eddie said. 'He said, `I want you to come up here and kick it with me.''

Getting the opportunity to join his brother was the product of a fortuitous circumstance. Young had been a standout defensive end at the Cal summer football camp following his junior year, but the Bears coaching staff saw him as a linebacker and didn't know whether he could handle that position. Young did not know Justin Wilcox, then Cal's linebackers coach, was in the stands watching his game the day Berkeley High School's starting linebacker was out with an injury, forcing Young to play linebacker for the first time in his life.

'I had one of the best games of my life, and coach (Jeff) Tedford called me the next day and offered me a scholarship,' Young said. 'I didn't think it was real. I called Sean and told him.'

So Young, despite interest in UCLA, Oregon and Arizona, chose the college down the street where his brother was. Young could walk home if he chose, and does go home three or four times a week. Just the other day, he went home to walk the dog. He even lived at home during his third year at Cal to save some money.

Obviously, the Young family is close, a fact that served them well during Young's freshman year when his stepmother, who had raised him since he was 6, passed away.

'It was hard for my father, losing the person you love,' Young said. 'But we made it through and it's good to see my father doing good now. Everything happens for a reason, I really believe that.'

Being close to home has been good for Young. After five years at Cal (he redshirted as a freshman), the 21-year-old Young has a pretty good sense about what lies ahead.

'I'm ready to get out of this area,' he said, 'and do something new.'

Jake Curtis writes about Bay Area college football and basketball at jakestakeonsports.com

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