The no. 42 is a historical jersey number, for not only the UCLA Bruins but in American history as a whole. This senior linebacker understands the significance of wearing Jackie Robinson’s number, his influence on the university and beyond.
“Long live Jackie; It’s an honor,” said Kenny Young. “Jackie put it in a great position on and off the field and … words can’t do justice for what he [has] done to the UCLA program and for me personally. It’s impacted my family, it’s impacted me.”
Young does his best to live up to the number with his defensive resume and his strides as a student. He is a preseason nominee for the Wuerffel Trophy, an honor awarded to an athlete that displayed exemplary community service efforts while showing sound academic and athletic integrity.
The New Orleans native is also on the watch list for the Dick Butkus Award for the top collegiate linebacker, an award won former Bruin Eric Kendricks won in 2014.
“My freshmen year, when I got [to UCLA] when Eric Kendricks was the linebacker and the captain of the defense and Bret Hundley was the quarterback, dealing with the offense,” Young said. “I’ve always used those guys to help me scope that leadership role. I was working on it day in, day out.”
Along with coming in fifth in the Pac-12 in tackles (7.5) and eighth in the nation in fumble recoveries (3), Young was on the UCLA debate team in 2016. His efforts in the classroom placed Young on the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll for Fall 2015 and his entire junior year.
Young, a sociology major, also earned the 2017 Academic and Student Services Success Award.
In 2015, he reached a career high of 13 tackles when UCLA lost 35-56 to the Stanford Cardinals. Young has acquired 118 career solo tackles and 13.5 career tackles for loss as of September 10.
Before sustaining an injury during the Bruins’ 56-23 win over the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors on Saturday, September 9, Young made three tackles and one pass breakup this season.
Prior to this season starting, Young mentioned how the UCLA defense was eager to improve from their 4-8 overall record in 2016. As of July, the squad ran over 20 practices where coaches were not involved, according to Young.
“I’ll get the defense and call the plays or whatever and Josh Rosen will call the plays for the offense and we’ll just battle early in the morning, and I think that’s a great sign,” Young said. “The young guys are eager to learn, they’re hungry, they want the spots of the older guys.”
Young portrays himself in a way that younger players see the importance of being authentic and dedicated to their craft.
“If you want the leadership role, you might not have it as a freshmen or a sophomore; yet, but if you just work and people see that and respect your work ethic each and every day, that is powerful, that is contagious,” Young said. “Whenever you get to be a senior, you appreciate that you [weren’t] a leader so young.”