ESCANABA - Austin Young was a record-setting all-state quarterback at Escanaba High School, dazzling fans and opponents alike with his running and throwing.
Now the all-around athletic standout is taking his football skills to Northern Michigan University, but not at quarterback in the spread offense to be operated by new head coach Chris Ostrowsky.
Like former St. Ignace quarterback and NMU redshirt freshman Gerrit Mortensen, Young will be moved to slot receiver in order to get him the ball more often.
Austin Young of Escanaba sits on Tuesday by a Northern Michigan University football cap that was worn by former Eskymo High School and NMU standout Nick Bink. Young signed a National Letter of Intent that he will send in today to attend NMU. With Young in the front is EHS coach Dan Flynn. In the back from left are EHS athletic director Dave Wilson, EHS assistant coach Jim Hansen and Austin’s father, Ron. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Dennis Grall)
"They decided offense so I could carry the ball," Young said Tuesday at EHS during a break from classes.
The Wildcats already have two quarterbacks on the roster in junior Cody Scepaniak and freshman Ryan Morley, plus another quarterback signing a National Letter of Intent today in West De Pere's Jay Tollefson, who guided the Phantoms to back-to-back Wisconsin state football championships in Division 3 as a junior and senior.
Young also worked out at defensive back for NMU - which he also played at Esky - on a visit to NMU before getting sent to the offensive side.
Asked if he wanted to try quarterback, he said, "I'm sure it will come up. I'll tell them I can throw."
He surpassed 1,000 yards throwing and running in both years as a starter, and veteran Escanaba coach Dan Flynn said Young will be able to pick up the nuances of his new position rather quickly, once he gets the reps.
"As soon as he catches the ball he becomes a ball carrier," said Flynn. "And that is where he is the most dangerous. I don't think that will be a challenge for him. He is a football player, he is an athlete.
"I've seen him catch hundreds of balls at the athletic field, but that was at practice, not in a game."
Flynn said the biggest adjustment will be learning how to block.
"He will learn it. He is a player," said Flynn, noting his experience at quarterback could be put to use on double pass plays. Flynn said he could also be used as a return specialist, "areas where he has excelled."
Young was also courted by Michigan Tech, Ferris State, Hope College, St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., and Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis. He was considered as a defensive back by those schools as well. Playing baseball, in addition to football, was an attractive option at SNC.
Young will pursue studies in criminal justice, but will not select a specific area until later. He picked NMU because of the academic area, its proximity to home, the interest expressed by the coaches and "the program seems like it will go up higher," he said.
"My goal was just to play college athletics. I wanted to play anywhere on the field."
Young, who is also goalie for the EHS hockey team, is a center fielder and leadoff batter in baseball for the high school and American Legion teams.
While football has become his favorite sport, it was not something he enjoyed on the elementary level.
In fact, Young said he quit playing in two different Pop Warner League seasons and wasn't that effective in junior high.
Hockey was his favorite sport through eighth grade, he said, noting he quit Pop Warner "because I didn't like it. My parents (Ron and Sandi) made me try it (later). I started to enjoy it at the higher level."
He ran out of the I-formation as a freshman and junior varsity player, joining the varsity for a couple games as a sophomore where he displayed his elusiveness and breakaway skills.
The Eskymos adopted their version of the spread offense in his sophomore season, and he said as a junior and senior "I started to get all my shiftiness."
He wants to get bigger and stronger as he moves to Marquette "and hopefully faster, too," he said, noting that will be important at the next level.
"They want to move me around and see what I can do," Young said.
He said the recruiting process was becoming stressful.
"I'm actually relieved it is over. I'm really excited for it (NMU) actually," he said.
Escanaba's 43-42 overtime victory over Marquette last season was the highlight of his prep days, he said. That game culminated with his 3-yard touchdown run and game-winning conversion pass to Devin Barton.
"That was such an emotional game, the linemen worked great for me, my receivers worked great, the defense showed up when it needed to," he said.
The Associated Press Division 3-4 all-state quarterback was also U.P. Big School Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. In 2010 he was All-U.P. running back and special teams player of the year in Class A-B-C.
Young has nine Escanaba High School records, five season records and four career marks.
His career marks include 398 points running and passing, 62 touchdowns running and passing, 402 rushing attempts and 3,004 yards rushing.
He had a single-season record 220 points (running and passing) in 2011, when he ran for a record 2,011 yards on 202 carries and completed 82 passes.
His 35 total touchdowns rank third all-time in the Upper Peninsula and 28th in the state.