Why former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young feels like 'a little kid' again

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL — Former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young is back in coaching, more excited about what’s ahead at Yukon High School that miffed about what happened in Stillwater. At age 67, started his rookie season as a head coach Monday at Yukon.
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 11, 2014


photo - Former Oklahoma State University football assistant coach Bill Young works with his Yukon High School football team as he takes his first stint as a head coach on the first day of team practice in Yukon, Okla. on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Former Oklahoma State University football assistant coach Bill Young works with his Yukon High School football team as he takes his first stint as a head coach on the first day of team practice in Yukon, Okla. on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

YUKON — Bill Young glanced at the assistant coach struggling to carry a load of red tackling pads.

“Give me some of those,” he said in the pre-dawn cool of Monday morning.

With two pads in hand, Young walked onto the field at Yukon High.

Walked back into football, too.

On a day high schools across Oklahoma ushered in football season with the start of practice, excitement was high in many locales. In places like Jenks and Anadarko, titles will be defended. In Clinton and Westmoore, new coaches will be welcomed. In Shawnee and Kingfisher, talent will be abundant.

Still, no one was more giddy to be on the gridiron than Bill Young.

“I had a hard time sleeping last night,” he said. “I was like a little kid starting school.”

That’s because he was returning to coaching. He was out of the business last season for the first time since 1968. Ever since starting his coaching career as an OSU student assistant, he has been on the sideline. Forty-five seasons in a row, culminating with a return to his alma mater as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.

But then after the 2012 season, OSU cut him loose.

Last season, Young was unemployed and bored.

“I didn’t do anything,” Young said. “That was the problem.”

He laughed.

“I just sat and watched television, got on the internet.”

Young admits that’s not entirely true. He watched every football game he could. He watched live. He recorded games. He even asked friends in coaching to send him DVDs of their games. And he went to a bunch of football practices as an observer, watching how other coaches went about their business, trying to pick up tips for his return to coaching.

After all, he never saw the end at OSU as the end of his career.

“I never really wanted to get out,” he said. “You get let go, and you’re out.”

Young could be sore about the way that things went at OSU. He was told after the best season in Cowboy history that the remaining year on his contract would be honored but that it wouldn’t be renewed after that, that college football was a young man’s game, that he would be out as Cowboy defensive coordinator.

Young was shown the door by his alma mater.

Ouch.

Worse, he had just finished building a house in his beloved Payne County, a place that he thought was perfect, a home in which he planned to retire.

But if Young is miffed, the 67-year-old is hiding it well. He watched all of OSU’s games last season. In talking about giving pep talks, he even made a playful crack about his high-octane replacement.

“Glenn Spencer taught me a couple of them,” Young said.

The simple but profound truth is that Bill Young loves football. Loves working with other coaches. Loves teaching young men. Loves seeing the fruits of that labor. Not even a messy divorce from OSU soured him on any of that.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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