After all three had committed to play football for the Kentucky Wildcats, Landon Young says he, Drake Jackson and Kash Daniel debated whether it was best to graduate high school early and enroll at UK for the 2016 spring semester or not.
“We all agreed there were positives and negatives both ways,” Young said Wednesday.
Paintsville linebacker Daniel and Woodford County offensive lineman Jackson ultimately decided to start their college football experience early. Yet Lafayette star Young — in recruiting parlance, a five-star offensive tackle — chose to finish high school with his classmates.
A three-sport athlete, Young felt he had unfinished business. His aspiration has long been to win state championships as a heavyweight wrestler and as a discus and shot-put thrower in track and field in the same school year.
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In February, ending years of injury-caused frustration, Young claimed the state wrestling crown that had previously eluded him.
On Saturday in the Kentucky state track and field championship meet, Young will try to finish off his personal triple crown. He will seek to claim the 3A state discus championship for a third straight year and reclaim the shot put title he won as a sophomore but lost as a junior.
The trend of high school stars graduating early to get a jump on college football seems to pick up steam with each passing year.
Potential benefits are obvious. You get an extra semester of work in a college conditioning program. You get to go through an extra spring practice at the time when you have the most to learn. You have a chance to build an academic cushion by accumulating a semester’s worth of credit hours.
You also show commitment to your college head coach.
“You’re always proud of (early enrollees) because they could be sitting there hanging out in high school for another semester and they come here and they go through the grueling offseason (conditioning) and go through the spring,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said at the end of the Cats’ 2016 spring practice.
“I really think it’s very helpful to those guys because you do install at a much slower pace in the spring. In the fall, (incoming players are) just drinking (from) a fire hose. In the spring, at least, it’s every other day (of practice) and you have a chance to look at the film and try and get your feet on the ground in between the practices.”
Yet, with all that, the final semester of high school can be such a special time in your life, I always wonder if it’s worth giving it up.
“I wanted a traditional high school experience,” Young said. “I wanted to go to prom. I wanted to spend as much time with my (Lafayette) classmates as I could. Some of them, who knows how much I’ll get to see them after (high school). Some of them, I may never see them.”
None of that should be taken to suggest that Young is not working hard to be ready when he reports to Kentucky for football.
When Lafayette fell to Male in the 6A state football championship game, Young said he was packing around 290 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame. To compete in wrestling, he had to get under 285. Now, after some hard work in the weight room, Young says he’s between 310 and 315.
In UK’s spring practice, offensive tackle did not appear to be a position of strength. Young is among many who think he can be on the field for the Wildcats this fall. “But I know nothing will be given,” he said. “I’ve got to earn it.”
First, Young has some state track championships to win. As a sophomore in 2014, Young won both the Class 3A shot put and discus. Last year, he repeated in the discus but finished second to St. Xavier’s Jake Glass (now at Illinois State) in the shot.
In winning region titles in both events this year, Young’s performances — 171 feet, nine inches in the discus, 58-8 in the shot — were better than his efforts in last year’s state meet (162-2, 55-6).
Yet his discus throw barely won this year’s region title.
Scott County freshman Bryan Hudson recently reaped statewide media attention when UK offered him a football scholarship. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder has Young’s attention for another reason. Hudson’s discus throw (171-1) came within nine inches of taking the regional championship away from the Lafayette senior.
“He’s come close to me, but so far he hasn’t beaten me,” Young said. “Hopefully, I can keep that going for one more meet.”
Whatever happens, Young says he has no regrets about going old school and finishing high school on the traditional calendar.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Landon Young says.
KHSAA State Track and Field Championships
When: Friday, 4:30 p.m. (Class 2A); Saturday, 9 a.m. (Class A); Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (Class 3A)
Where: UK Outdoor Track and Field Complex
Tickets: $10 per session