Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.
VARNELL -- Jake Young has been a weight room warrior for the Coahulla Creek High School football team. The senior nose guard can squat almost 500 pounds.
So during the summer before Young's sophomore year, Young knew there was a problem when he couldn't pick up a desk built for a middle school student.
"We went to go help the middle school one day," Young said of his team's trip to North Whitfield Middle to help prepare for the start of the 2017-18 school year. "My back had been hurting for a while, a couple of months or two, but I thought it would be fine. I went to pick up a desk -- it weighs what, 10 pounds? -- and I couldn't even pick it up. I fell to the ground and thought, 'OK, this isn't good.'"
It wasn't good. It was really bad.
An MRI revealed a stress fracture in Young's L4 vertebrae, which is a bone in the lower back. He still doesn't know when the break happened. Young didn't need surgery, just rest and rehabilitation. But the injury wiped out his season.
Young wore a hard plastic brace around his torso -- which he described as "like a corset" -- for about four months. He was confined to watching games and practices from the sideline. No lifting weights. No working out. Young wondered if he would play football again.
Doctors determined Young could play football for his junior season, taking his progress slow in the weight room with coaches keeping a close eye on him.
"I just really wanted to prove to myself that I could still do it, show people just because I missed a year I wasn't different or anything, that I'm still going to work hard, that I'm still going to do what I can," Young said. "I just really wanted to improve."
And improve he has, according to coach Caleb Bagley.
"He's just a phenomenal kid," Bagley said. "He does everything you ask him to. He's 'Yes, sir. No, sir.' He's all about the team. He makes excellent grades, great in the classroom. He has provided excellent leadership for us since I've been here. He's been one of our main guys."
Bagley also describes Young as a "huge piece on the field" -- in a figurative sense. Young plays nose guard -- which lines up over centers or guards -- at 5 feet, 7 inches and 190 pounds. He's routinely up against much taller and larger players. Young never backs down, according to Bagley.
"I'm sure they underestimate him, but if they watch any film they won't underestimate him," Bagley said. "He's 5-7. He is stocky and is kind of put together. He's not going to win the getting off the bus trophy but he has a great motor, is very coachable and plays with great technique."
Young has been dealing with another broken bone -- this time in his left hand -- but is suiting up for his senior season after missing several games. The Colts (1-4, 0-3 in Region 6-3A) are looking for their second win of the season tonight at 7:30 as they travel to Chatsworth to take on North Murray (5-1, 4-0 in Region 6-3A).