It is common for prominent former teammates and coaches of Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates to show public displays of affection for those they know well.
That has certainly been the case through the years for former 49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young, who was announced recently as one of 26 modern-era semifinalists for the Class of 2022.
But something extraordinary happened this week.
A group of opposing offensive linemen came together in support of the man they agreed could simply not be handled one-on-one during his career.
Now, those former rivals are on the same team as advocates for Young’s candidacy into the Hall of Fame.
“He definitely deserves it,” said Adam Timmerman, who faced Young more than any other player as a guard with the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams. “I was quite shocked when he didn’t make it on the first ballot because he deserves it.”
Young, who quietly and professionally went about his business, had no role in this Hall of Fame information session.
Former 49ers public relations man Kirk Reynolds reached out to longtime NFL players who regularly lined up against Young. Reynolds said the former players enthusiastically agreed to stump for Young.
Young did not learn about the virtual round table of former players until about an hour before the get-together on his behalf. Hall of Fame selectors were invited to attend, and the 30-minute video session was sent to the entire 49-person committee.
“There comes a point where you have to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,” said Jerry Fontenot, a 16-year pro with Chicago and New Orleans. “This guy, even though he doesn’t advocate for himself and wasn’t flashy, he was the guy who was an unbelievable force.
“This guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame at the end of the day.”
Mark Schlereth, who played 12 seasons in the NFL and is now an NFL game analyst on FOX, made the opening comments before turning it over to Timmerman, Fontenot, Willie Roaf, Robbie Tobeck and Kevin Gogan.
“I don’t know exactly what a Hall of Famer is, but I know what one is when I see him, and BY is a Hall of Famer,” Schlereth said.
Gogan was the only person on the video conference who was a teammate of Young.
Gogan played for the Dallas Cowboys for the first seven seasons of his NFL career before moving on to the 49ers for two seasons. Gogan said he rates Young ahead of Hall of Famers John Randle and Warren Sapp due to his overall game.
Gogan said Young was every bit as dominant as a run defender as he was as a pass rusher. Young registered 89.5 sacks, only seven fewer than Sapp. Young recorded more tackles than Randle and Sapp.
Young started all 208 games he played in with the 49ers. He started as a rookie in 1994 and made an immediate impact, as the 49ers rose from the No. 16 run defense in the NFL in 1993 to second overall after his arrival.
“If you start comparing him to the greats in the Hall of Fame, he could control the game from the defensive tackle position,” Gogan said. “I think the guy from the Rams today (Aaron Donald) can control the game from the defensive tackle position.
“They are few and far in between. I don’t think John Randle could, even though I have mass respect for John Randle, and I do think he’s a Hall of Fame player. I just think BY, in my 14 years, was the best defensive tackle I’ve come across, bar none.”
Tobeck was a division opponent against Young when the Falcons were in the NFC West, then with Seattle after the divisions realigned.
“What you hate as an offensive lineman is I don’t mind playing against a Warren Sapp-type guy, who was a Hall of Fame guy and a great player, but you kind of knew what Warren was going to give you. You just had to try to stop it,” Tobeck said.
“But a guy like Bryant, you just didn’t know what he was going to give you. He could bring the power; he could bull rush you; he could beat you with quickness; he had a great counter move. He was the total package.”
Young earned the respect of his counterparts because of the class with which he carried himself, too.
It was an unprecedented show of reverence for a Hall of Fame candidate from a group of men who may not know him well but know all about the way he played the game from beginning to end in his 14-year career.
"I just remember how strong and tough he was and how he brought it every week," Roaf said. "He was one of those guys with a quiet demeanor. He wasn’t really a talker guy on the sideline or whatever. He was just a class act."
Young was having his best season in 1998 when he sustained a gruesome tibia-fibula fracture in a game against the New York Giants. After a long rehab, he returned to action the following season and won NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
After the injury, Young earned All Pro honors twice (1999 and 2001), made the Pro Bowl three times and was named a Pro Bowl alternate five times.
Said Gogan, “I have never done this before, and I won’t do this for anybody I don’t feel fully confident should be in the Hall of Fame. There’s not even a doubt in my mind -- not even a doubt.”