Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Bill Young laughs at the notion of being considered a natural athlete.
Either way, the 1975 Laurel High and 1980 Westminster College graduate lived and breathed sports from a young age.
“It’s a different day and age now,” the Harlansburg resident said. “Back then, there were no cellphones or computers. My family didn’t have a color TV until I was a junior or senior in high school. All we did was play ball. From the time we could ride a bike to each other’s house, we were always doing something that involved athletics.”
ENTERING THE HALL
Young, 57, will join 11 other inductees on May 4 when they enter the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held at the New Englander.
“This is a wonderful honor, but it is a little humbling,” he said. “Lawrence County is one of the smaller counties in Pennsylvania and we don’t get as much press as Allegheny or even Beaver County. There have been some tremendous, tremendous athletes that have played sports in Lawrence County, but you have a little bit of doubt in your mind if you’re truly worthy of being inducted.”
Former Laurel football coach and current Spartans track coach George Miles has no such doubts.
“He was a dominant player,” Miles said. “He was extremely intelligent. He was very aggressive and quick. I can still see him in his stance with his leg twitching. He was so anxious to get off the ball.
“He was excellent in track. He had a couple of unfortunate accidents that kept him from placing at state. As far as the county, he was one of the top throwers in the shot and discus. Up until that time, he was one of the top throwers we had seen at Laurel.”
Young was a nine-time letterman, earning three letters each in football, basketball and track.
During his career at Laurel, he set the school record for tackles, single-season rebounds (294) and in the discus and the shot put.
“Most of us played three sports in those days,” Young said. “That’s all we lived for. I was fortunate enough to do something decent in all three of those, but I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a natural athlete.
“I was determined to be a good rebounder. I decided I wanted to go for the rebounding record my senior year. I could jump pretty well and I was strong. I worked hard in practice on boxing out. It was something I took pride in and was something I wanted to be good at.
“I really enjoyed track. The thing about track is you took pride in the team aspect of it, but there was a lot of individual satisfaction. You worked hard at your individual event. I put in a lot of time both at home and at practice throwing. I remember reading that you could add a foot for however many throws, so I threw and threw and threw.”
Young earned the right to compete in the PIAA track and field championships after winning WPIAL championships in the discus at the conclusion of his junior and senior seasons, but had a physical ailment hinder his chances at a state title.
He battled through a hairline fracture in his back suffered during a diving accident to place sixth in the discus as a junior. As a senior, a chain saw accident ended his career prematurely just days before the state meet.
“He had a couple of unfortunate accidents,” Miles said. “His junior year, he went down and gutted it out. We found out later he had broken his back. Yeah, he was snakebitten. I could see it happening one year, but for it to happen two years in a row was a real jinx.”
WRITING ON THE WALL
After graduating from high school, Young became the first Laurel High graduate to receive a full scholarship to a Division 1 institution when he accepted Penn State University’s offer to play football for Joe Paterno.
Young saw time as a guard and as a defensive end on the Nittany Lions’ freshman team.
“He impressed them,” Miles said. “Down at Penn State, he was a terror. When they had their first-team offense on the field, they wanted him playing defense, because they knew he’d give them a good look.”
During spring practices, the Penn State coaching staff shuffled Young between offensive guard and defensive tackle, but future NFL standouts Bruce Clark (a New Castle native) and Matt Millen arrived in Happy Valley soon after.
“I loved Penn State and sometimes, I think I should’ve stayed, but the handwriting was on the wall,” he said. “Bruce Clark ended up being a All-Pro defensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints. Once Matt Millen ended up in the pros, they moved him back to linebacker.”
After sitting out a year due to NCAA regulations, Young became a two-year starter at tackle for Westminster and earned All-American recognition.
“A bunch of guys I played ball with were at Westminster,” he said. “I wanted to play, so I decided to transfer there, because it looked like I wasn’t going to get to play at Penn State. At that time, Westminster had a great program. We didn’t win a national championship when I was there, but I had a lot of fun.”
HIS LIFE’S WORK
After graduating from Westminster, Young became an assistant coach under Miles for the 1980 WPIAL championship football team.
“It was very exciting,” Young said. “We had a good team. They came together at the right time and put on a nice run. I think we surprised Clairton a little bit. It was a very exciting game. It was a hard-fought game.”
In 1987, Young became an assistant principal at Neshannock and served as its head football coach for three seasons.
“It was one of the most rewarding times of my life,” he said. “I started coaching after Bob Bleggi retired. We had some lean years when I first got there. My third year, we were 5-5 and what hurt us was numbers. We only had like 25 kids on the team. Those kids really worked hard and really believed in what we were trying to do. They overachieved. We weren’t overly big and didn’t have a lot of speed. They were a smart group of kids and they competed.”
He stepped down as football coach to continue his education at Carnegie Mellon University before taking an assistant principal position at North Allegheny High School.
“I was married and had two kids,” said Young, who with his wife Patrice has two sons, Robert and Patrick. “I started thinking along the lines of providing for my family. I could make more money as an administrator. That ended my athletic career.”