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2021 NFL Draft: Introducing Dareke Young, Lenoir-Rhyne’s stud playmaker

Jake Pierce, LR Athletics

A program seen by many as on the rise, Lenoir-Rhyne are firmly on the NFL draft map. The program recently ended a twenty-year drought when Kyle Dugger was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Not only was it the first time in two decades that a player from Lenoir-Rhyne was drafted, but it was also the earliest selection ever used on a player that donned the Cardinal & Black.

Could the Bears make it two years in a row for the first time in their history? Don’t look now, but it’s possible that there’s another NFL-worthy talent hibernating down in Hickory, North Carolina in the form of wide receiver Dareke Young.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Young is coming off a bit of a breakout season, as he recorded 850 total yards and 12 touchdowns while playing as both a running back and wide receiver. Young now enters his senior season as a full-time receiver, and with his eyes set on riding the program’s momentum all the way to the NFL.

As I begin to sit down with NFL draft-eligible talents all over the nation, I was very intrigued by Young. Here, I caught up with him to discuss how Dugger’s success created some much-welcomed attention for the program, which areas of his game he’s currently working on, and his expectations for the upcoming season.

JM: This is a big season for you. The spread of COVID-19 has brought many challenges. How are you finding ways to work out and improve your game with so many restrictions in place?

DY: One of the quarterbacks on our roster lives 15 minutes away from me. We’ve been getting together about four days a week to throw the ball around. We’re doing what we can to stay locked in and focused. In terms of weighs and what not, I’ve been taking it back to the basics and doing lots of sit-ups, push-ups, lightweight squats and things of that nature. We’re trying to stay safe out here.

JM: You took a big step forward last season while playing a dual-threat role on offense. You totaled 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards, but the stat that really jumps out at me is the 20.6 yards per catch. What do you think lead to your improvement in 2019?

DY: It was really just about opportunity. We had a big-time receiver that graduated after my sophomore year. During that off-season, the coaches were looking for somebody to step up and fill the void he left behind. I feel like I was one of those guys that stepped up and showed that I could be the go-to guy this past season. I feel like I stepped up in a major way.

JM: You absolutely did. Kyle Dugger leaves the program for the NFL as the first player from Lenoir-Rhyne to get drafted in 20 years. Have you noticed an uptick in the attention you’re receiving since Dugger hit the national map?

DY: Yeah, for sure. He definitely put us on the map. I wasn’t surprised that he got drafted. I was his teammate for three years. I saw it day in, day out. I saw the amount of work that he put into it. He was a great leader for us both on and off the field. We had the same major so we actually had quite a few classes together. I wasn’t just around him on the field, but we spent some time together in the classroom as well. I saw how hard he worked at everything he put his mind to. I wasn’t surprised when he got drafted. I actually thought he deserved to get drafted in the first round. I was so happy for him. I’m sure a lot of people were shocked that a player from Lenoir-Rhyne can get drafted where he did, but I wasn’t one of those people.

JM: You two must have had some great battles in practice. I don’t know that you would have lined up directly across from him, but I imagine your paths crossed quite a bit.

DY: We never went up against each other one-on-one but we definitely came across one another on the practice field. There were certain plays or formations that you run within the vicinity of one another. He definitely made me a better player. I never saw a better player during the season than the one [Dugger] I saw in practice. I knew that if I had desire to make it to the next level, which I obviously do, I’m going to be squaring off with players like him on a daily basis. He definitely prepared me for that. It’s rare to get something like that at the D-II level. You’re not supposed to see a talent like that every day in practice in D-II, but I did. I really embraced it. He made every single one of us better.

JM: I love that. What’s your favorite part about playing the wide receiver position?

DY: I love being a play-maker. The possibilities are endless. My favorite part about playing receiver is lining up with a defensive back on an island. That’s definitely my favorite part, being out there one-on-one. There’s so many routes that you can run. I love having the confidence of my coaches and my quarterback. They trust me to make plays out there. It’s my job to reward that trust. I have to go out there and make a play on the ball.

JM: What can you tell me about the scheme that you guys are planning to run on offense this season?

DY: We have a new coaching staff. The scheme is pretty much a pro-style offense. I’m really excited to play in this offense. I’m an actual receiver now. Last year, I was used as more of a hybrid player. I was used both as a running back and receiver last year. This year, I’ll be focused on playing receiver in a pro-style offense. We’re expanding the route tree. We only had two Spring practices so I can’t tell you too much about the new offense just yet. In my opinion, it’s an offense that suits me. It’s the offense I need to be playing in if I have hopes of making it to the next level.

JM: That’s great news for you. You must be excited to focus solely on playing your natural position this coming season.

DY: I’m excited to make the full-time transition back to what I know best. I played receiver in high school. We ran a pro-style offense during my freshmen year here at Lenoir-Rhyne. I was already used to it but then I started to play that hybrid role for the past two seasons. It’s definitely something that I have to get used to again. I’m not expecting it to be a tough transition though. It’s what I know best. I’ve been running routes all throughout this quarantine. I have an opportunity now to really focus on route running. There wasn’t as much detail put into that while I was playing the hybrid role. It’s an exciting time for me. I get to go back to reading coverages and winning match-ups on the outside.

JM: As you continue to chase your dreams, the term “small-school” will be brought up a lot as a negative. Dugger heard it, and you’ll hear it as well. How do you plan on responding?

DY: It’s just a chip that I have on my shoulder. I feel like I’m talented enough to play at the next level. I’m not going to lie to you, I doubted myself when I first came to Lenoir-Rhyne. My dream was to play football at a D-I school. Nobody really dreams of going to a D-II school. Seeing Dugger’s work ethic and watching him get drafted boosted my confidence. I started to believe in myself all over again. I believe I can be the next player to make it to the league from Lenoir-Rhyne. When people ask me what I school I go to, I say Lenoir-Rhyne with pride in my voice. If people don’t really know football, they might ask me where that is. I don’t let it bother me. I know that I’m a hard worker and I know that I have an opportunity to make it to the next level.

JM: I love the honesty and raw emotion you displayed in that answer. I’m going to end things on that note. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Dareke. In closing, what can Lenoir-Rhyne fans expect from Dareke Young this coming season?

DY: I’m not a really a “me” type of player, but I have a few goals for myself. I would love to break the receptions record in a single season. I want to lead my team to a third consecutive championship. I also want to lead us to the National Championship on December 19th.