- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Washington Redskins fullback Darrel Young entered the NFL as a linebacker from then-Division I-AA Villanova. That already made him a long shot. But coach Mike Shanahan asked him to switch positions when he arrived in 2010 and Young has gone from long shot to No. 1 fullback. Young also is a key special-teams player and nobody was more passionate after Sunday's 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys than Young -- because of the poor performance by his group. Young talks about that, what he's learned as a blocker and why he wants to become a Big Brother.
You don’t always see guys talk with as much passion after a game as you did after Dallas about the special teams. How hard was it for you after that game?
Darrel Young: It was just frustrating. It was embarrassing. We practice every day with a purpose; you don’t say, ‘This guy will score a touchdown and this guy will have two big plays to determine the outcome.’ It sucks. Teams will have success. OK, cool, you give up a punt return. Then stop them and make the tackle and give the defense a chance to make them kick a field goal. We got outplayed. It wasn’t outcoached, it wasn’t outschemed. I don’t give a damn if the coach puts 11 guys on one guy, if he makes the tackle then we have a damn problem ... I couldn’t sleep on the plane. I kept replaying it in my head.
As a blocker, what have you learned over the last couple years?
DY: Don’t size guys up. I’m still doing it this year, meaning don’t gather your feet before you get there. Just run through them and make him make a move or something. [Secondary coach] Raheem [Morris] said, ‘You played linebacker, right? What do we teach you? Not to stop your feet, run through the guy.’ So he said take six-inch steps and then explode.
How big a difference does that make?
DY: So much of a difference, just being able to get on guys, being able to get to the next level with my game. That’s what makes Vonta Leach great. You never see him stop. He just runs through you. It’s not about a fear factor; guys aren’t afraid. It’s about not wanting to miss your block. That’s why he’s the best fullback in the game. He just goes and people react to him.
What else have you learned?
DY: Just understanding the scheme and how guys fit and understanding defenses. You know when you get certain coverages how guys will fit.
How long did that take?
DY: I’m still learning. But it took about two years to recognize it. I had a year with Mike Sellers and if I didn’t have him I don’t think I would have recognized why things happened. He’d be like the linebacker is sitting [in this gap] so you know the safety has to come down. I never thought about that. As a defender you’d say I got the B gap, the safety has the C gap. It makes sense that he’s got to come down in the box. He clarified things for me.
Is this your best season as a blocker?
DY: Hell, no. 2011 was my best season blocking.
What’s the difference?
DY: I don’t know. It’s just the way I feel about finishing guys off. Maybe guys are adjusting to the scheme, I don’t know.
You mean they’re getting to their spots quicker?
DY: Yeah, I guess they’re recognizing stuff more.
Do you ever worry about how the fullback position seems to be going away?
DY: I do, but I know [Mike] Shanahan’s scheme and he loves the fullback. So as long as he’s here, there will be fullbacks in the league.
What’s the benefit of having a fullback?
DY: Better play-action. You can get linebackers to step up more on play-action. I do think sometimes the fullback gets in the way for running backs, I honestly do. Clinton Portis said, ‘I hate a fullback in front of me, I’d rather be with two tight ends and those guys on the line.’ I was like, ‘All right, that’s fine.’
Just better vision for him you think?
DY: Yeah, I think so. Some guys are different. Roy Helu, I know he likes having a fullback in the game. I never asked Alfred [Morris]. Me and Roy were just talking about it. I think Alfred doesn’t care.
Why so much better with play-action?
DY: I just feel if you can give a run action to the linebackers they have to step up. Safeties too. Everyone’s reading the triangle [guards/backs] back there. If you see guards being aggressive and you see backs coming at you, you’re going to step up naturally.
What’s something people wouldn’t know or guess about you?
DY: That I’m very family-oriented. People may not know that because they just see us in the media and I’m not married and I don’t have kids. But my parents go to every game. I love kids.
How much do you do volunteer work with kids?
DY: All the time. Every week we do charity stuff. I just signed up for the Big Brother program so I’ll have a little brother or sister. I know how tough it is to go through some things by yourself. Some people don’t have the resources to get to the next level. If I feel I can change two lives out of a hundred, then I feel I accomplished something.