Mark Story

UK teammates say Landon Young is a campus ‘legend.’ It has nothing to do with football

Former Lafayette standout Landon Young suffered a knee injury and will miss the 2018 season, a UK spokesman confirmed on Saturday. It’s the second straight year the Cats have lost their starting left tackle before the first game.
Former Lafayette standout Landon Young suffered a knee injury and will miss the 2018 season, a UK spokesman confirmed on Saturday. It’s the second straight year the Cats have lost their starting left tackle before the first game. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

To listen to Landon Young’s Kentucky Wildcats teammates, the junior left tackle has achieved near-mythic status on the UK campus for tales of his exploits as an outdoorsman.

“What’s Paul Bunyan? A myth? A legend?” UK center Drake Jackson says, referencing the giant lumberjack of American folklore. “Well, we have ‘The Legend of Landon Young.’”

Jackson says he has people approach him on campus “with crazy stories about Landon. (They say) ‘I hear Landon drives four miles every day (after practice) to go farm for eight hours. And he just does it for the fun.’”

Offensive guard Logan Stenberg sounds as if his ears might bleed if he has to hear just one more story about “Landon Young, boy pig farmer.”

“I just love hearing, ‘Hey, I bottle fed this one (pig) until he was 4 years old,’” Stenberg says sarcastically. “Landon, he’s as redneck as he gets, or at least he sure wants to be.”

Former Lafayette star Landon Young said on Media Day he thinks playing for UK does mean more to players from Kentucky.

Young, the 6-foot-7, 305-pound junior from Lafayette High School, is expected to be one of the key cogs in Kentucky’s 2018 football season.

After two seasons in which Young — the first consensus five-star recruit to sign with UK football in the era of Internet recruiting services — shared the left tackle position, he is expected to be the main man this fall at the most vital offensive line position.

Kash, Drake and Landon
Paintsville’s Kash Daniel, left, Woodford County’s Drake Jackson, center, and Lafayette’s Landon Young, right, were in-state recruiting coups for Kentucky in its 2016 signing class. All three are expected to be starters in 2018. Mark Mahan

In a year when Kentucky will start the season without a quarterback on its roster who has ever played in an NCAA Division I football game, it will be Young’s task to “have the back” on passing downs of whoever wins the UK starting QB job.

Eddie Gran, the UK offensive coordinator, says Kentucky coaches have challenged Young to be more consistent in his third college season and have emphasized the need for improvement as a pass blocker.

“With those left tackles, it all comes down to footwork,” Gran said. “If they get lazy on their footwork, a guy like (UK star pass rusher) Josh Allen is going to be around the corner in Mach 5 (speed).”

Kentucky’s inexperienced quarterbacks must surely draw confidence from having their own “Paul Bunyan” protecting their blind side.

Self-proclaimed “country boy”

For all the joshing Young takes from his teammates, he truly is as “country” as a crowing rooster.

Before Young’s family moved to Lexington, they farmed hogs in Grayson County. Young can regale one with tales of “birthing pigs.”

Even once the family moved to Lexington, “I ended up going to a technical school where that was my main job. We farrowed a lot of pigs,” Young said. “I helped raise them and even bottle fed some of them from (the time they were) near-born until we ended up selling them off.”

The UK tackle’s passion for hunting and fishing is such that, last summer, he and UK linebacker Kash Daniel were invited to fish on an episode of “Kentucky Afield,” the long-running Kentucky Educational Television outdoors program.

Kash & Landon Kentucky Afield
Kentucky football players Kash Daniel, left, and Landon Young, with fish, appeared with host Chad Miles on KET’s outdoors television program “Kentucky Afield” last year. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

Once his football days end, Young aspires to become a veterinarian.

Young’s current self-improvement goal is to teach himself to play the banjo. Eventually, Young is planning to use Skype to take banjo lessons from Gary “Biscuit” Davis, a famous Tennessee-based banjo player

“My Dad raised me on older country music, and I always loved the sound of Bluegrass Music,” Young says. “I love the sound of the banjo. It’s a very unique, quirky instrument and I think I’m very unique and a quirky guy myself.”

A sense of urgency

Kentucky football fans will likely be pleased to know that, this summer, Young curtailed the time he devoted to hunting and fishing and learning to play the banjo to concentrate on getting ready for the 2018 season.

“I took a little heavier course load and focused a lot on being in the weight room and recovery, just preparing my body,” Young said.

Landon Young TD celebration
Kentucky offensive tackle Landon Young (67) celebrated as running back Benny Snell (26) scored a touchdown in UK’s 24-20 victory over Eastern Michigan at Kroger Field last season. Alex Slitz

With Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman battling an undisclosed medical condition, Young said the UK offensive linemen carry extra motivation into the coming season.

“We are using (Schlarman’s health situation) as a catalyst for us,” Young says.

Because his size is coupled with an athleticism that allowed Young to be both a high school wrestling and track and field state champion in the shot put and discus at Lafayette, he is seen as having NFL potential.

Entering his third year of college, Young knows the time is now to show that.

“This is the year when I have to step up and show out,” he says. “This is the year when I have to get on everybody’s radar. This is the year I’ve got to show everybody what I am capable of.”

Mark Stoops and UK football backers will hope that, in 2018, the “Legend of Landon Young” extends to consistently stellar play on the football field.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

Scouting the Cats

This is the seventh of nine stories looking at the 2018 Kentucky football team position by position.

Scouting the offensive line

The main men: In senior Bunchy Stallings and junior Logan Stenberg, both products of Alabama high school football, UK has one of the best offensive guard tandems in the SEC. Stallings, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound alumnus of Alabama’s Spain Park High School, has made 19 starts the past two seasons at either center or guard. Stenberg, a 6-6, 320-pound product of James Clemens High School in Madison, Ala., might be UK’s most physical player on either side of the ball.

The supporting cast: UK has an experienced player at every starting offensive line position. Last year’s Kentucky offensive line solidified when ex-Woodford County star Drake Jackson, now a 6-2, 303-pound redshirt sophomore, was inserted as the starting center for the final seven games. Former Lafayette High School star Landon Young has the left tackle position to himself after splitting reps the past two seasons with Cole Mosier (2016) and Kyle Meadows (2017). At right tackle, senior George Asafo-Adjei, a 6-5, 315-pound West Chester, Ohio, product, has been part of the regular offensive line rotation since arriving on campus in 2015.

Outlook: An offensive line with so much experience should be one of the strengths of the 2018 Kentucky football team. It will be interesting to see if the UK brain trust seeks to develop enough depth to two-platoon along the offensive front as the Cats did in 2016 or if Kentucky mostly sticks with its starters as the Wildcats did down the stretch last season. Several Wildcats linemen say they have extra incentive to play well for John Schlarman, UK’s offensive line coach, who is dealing with an undisclosed illness.