The 1999 NFL Draft was a long couple of days for Ryan Young. The Kansas State offensive tackle didn't expect to hear 222 other names called before he was selected by the Jets in the seventh round.
Disappointed? Sure. But then his phone rang, and…
"When I spoke to Coach (Bill) Parcells, I don't know, I just felt like there was an immediate connection," Young said. "And then talking to Bill Muir, who was our O-line coach, I really appreciated the way that both of those guys communicated the opportunity. I was excited."
Along with Randy Thomas, David Loverne, and J.P. Machado, Young was one of four offensive linemen, and only tackle, who were drafted by the Jets that year. He would keep his eyes on two veterans during training camp at Hofstra to help get the lay of the land.
"There were some guys that I grew up watching, like Bryan Cox, who was from St. Louis. I was from St. Louis, and so I watched him closely," Young said. "And once I really got connected to the team, Kevin Mawae was a huge mentor and a vet that influenced me in a very positive way that really helped me as develop as a professional."
Young truly became a professional as the preseason wrapped up and he learned that he made the team. That was something he wasn't counting on, or even knew if he really wanted to be a reality.
"You know, college football, it was a grind when you talk about education and the responsibility of being a student-athlete along with the responsibilities of football," Young said. "I actually had a pharmaceutical job with Pfizer set up in Kansas City as a medical sales rep, and was ready to take on that job.
"When I made the team, I was going to give football a go. And by that point, something had reignited within me. I was excited about being able to play the game."
Playing on special teams and as a backup to start the season, the rookie was given the nod to start at right tackle in Week 10 against New England when first-stringer Jason Fabini was shifted down the line and would open the game at left tackle due to Jumbo Elliott being hampered by a bad back.
"I was super excited. You're never really quite sure of who I was as a player, but a lot of who I was in college I guess was good enough to help me with these tests in the NFL. I think a lot of Coach Parcells' mentoring, Bill Muir's coaching, and some of the guys that were around me, just the culture of the locker room, really had prepared me for that moment," Young said.
"It was on Monday Night Football, and I had a week to actually prepare mentally and emotionally. And so I went into that game and I studied my butt off. I studied film. I studied everything about the Patriots' defense. And I think I had one of the best games of my career in that moment.
"We won the game (24-17), and it was acknowledged by Coach Parcells. He had me stand on the table in the middle of the locker room and handed me a game ball."
Young continued to be a starter after Fabini suffered a season-ending knee injury during the game against the Patriots, and would become a constant at right tackle.
"Stepping into the lineup for the rest of the season, Vinny Testaverde was such a great leader in a sense that I wanted to match a lot of that same preparation," Young said. "And I had a lot of great support around me and a lot of great models that helped me get ready for that moment as a rookie."
What didn't become a constant, however, was who'd be patrolling the sideline as New York's head coach.
Following the 1999 season, Parcells cut back on his duties and was solely the general manager. Al Groh went from coaching the Jets' linebackers to head coach for the 2000 campaign. And then he was replaced the following season by Herm Edwards.
"It was sad that Coach Parcells stepped down. He was the guy that I really looked up to and appreciated his style of coaching," Young said. "I think Coach Groh really took to and liked the physical nature of my game, and so we got along really well. And then Herm Edwards was something that I never had before. He was a guy that was a player's coach. I remember that being one of the funnest seasons of my career."
A starter for two-plus seasons, Young's time as a Jet came to a close in 2002 when he was left unprotected and chosen second-overall in the NFL Expansion Draft by the Houston Texans.
"I think when they looked at potential physical health and injury, some things that were happening in my body that I think the Jets were aware of, it just made sense," Young said. "They had a guy behind me, Kareem McKenzie, who when I was taken, stepped right in and did a great job. Kareem was a lot younger, healthier, and (would have) a longer career. And so I think to just the put all the pieces together, looking back, me being exposed to the Expansion Draft made sense.
"I was super disappointed. Heartbroken. I loved my teammates. I loved the O-line. Randy Thomas, Jason Fabini, Kerry Jenkins, and Kevin Mawae, I thought we'd play together for years to come.
"Houston tried their best to welcome me into the city, and they did a great job. But it was just so new. We had to really create and define what the culture was going to be in that locker room. And that young in my career, it was just really hard to take on that responsibility."
In the league for five seasons with the Jets, Houston, and Dallas, Young, who makes his home in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Charity, and has four adult children: Caleb, Michael, David, and Morgan; has a new responsibility.
Since February, he has been the Senior Director of the SOUL Mission for the University of Oklahoma football team.
"It's player development, and our mission is being holistic development to the student-athletes," Young said. "And so taking a lot of the lessons that I've learned over the years in life and a lot of the wisdom and all the things that have been poured out into me, I get a chance to lead a team that is pouring those things out into a group of young athletes.
"I played at Kansas State and Coach Brent Venables, who is the head coach in Oklahoma, he was a G.A. my freshman year. And by the time I went to the NFL, he left and went to Oklahoma to be their defensive coordinator. We just kind of stayed in contact over the years.
"I was invited to interview for this position. I was working in the state doing some sports chaplaincy work and some leadership development, and so we both felt like I was the right fit for the job. I felt like O.U. was the place that I wanted to use my gifts and talents and experience."
What does Young enjoy most about his position with the Sooners?
"I think, right now, creating a culture in which our young athletes can come in and find the safety to grow and mature," he said, "and their ability to work on their personal development, their emotional development, and really hone in on some skills and tools that will help them in life after football. I really enjoy that aspect of the job."