Bryant Young left a lasting impact on the 49ers as one of the best players to ever wear the uniform.
There has never been an individual who earned more respect from his teammates, as exemplified by the eight times he was chosen as the winner of the 49ers’ top honor, the Len Eshmont Award for courageous and inspirational play.
Young last week was announced as a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, making it to the final 25 modern-era candidates for the Class of 2020.
Upon his retirement and being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates at the conclusion of the 2007 season, Young’s uniform No. 97 was not worn by another 49ers player for a decade.
Now, No. 97 is back making an impact, and Young is excited to see rookie defensive end Nick Bosa wearing the number with distinction.
“It’s kind of weird seeing it flash across the screen,” Young said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “But I tell you what, he’s representing that number really well and doing a good job in his first year. I’m proud of the job he’s doing with that number.”
Young is the 49ers' all-time sacks leader with 89.5. Bosa has eight sacks in his first NFL season with four games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
But Young was never about numbers, and that perspective is part of what made him special -- on and off the field.
“It’s not the number that makes the person, it’s the person that makes the number,” Young said. “To be able to wear that number for so many years, I hope people remember the person more than they remember the number, and the person and what he did in the community. The person, in terms of how he treated people in the organization and the community.
"And, then, the person as a player.”
Young coached for several seasons after his retirement as a player. He stepped away from his position as defensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason to spend more time with family in Charlotte, N.C.
He still follows the only NFL organization for which he played. And, of course, he pays particularly close attention to the play of the 49ers’ defensive line.
“You see things, the chemistry that they have, they understand situational football, and guys are competing from snap to whistle, and that’s really fun to see,” Young said.
“From a fan perspective, it’s really fun to see the Niners are doing a really good job and everybody’s engaged, and it’s fun. And you feel that excitement in the air. They’re fun to watch. You understand from a coach’s standpoint, they have a good group of guys that have been assimilated on that field that really care about each other and play for each other.”