When the Redskins selected Chase Young with the second overall pick in last month’s draft, most people who had anticipated the pick for months in advance finally allowed themselves to bask in thoughts of Young terrorizing quarterbacks for years to come in Washington.
This was a completely normal reaction for NFL fans who only became aware of him once he was a household name and top draft prospect. Young’s 17 sacks in a suspension-shortened junior season at Ohio State catapulted him up draft boards, earning him comparisons to perennial Pro Bowlers and Pro Football Hall of Famers. Who wouldn’t dream of what he could do on their team?
But my thoughts went elsewhere.
Young, as has been discussed plenty, is from the Washington area. His hometown, Hyattsville, Md., is a 15-minute drive up Route 202 from FedEx Field in Landover. I know the area so well because I grew up 10 minutes in the other direction. This is Prince George’s County.
But this isn’t about me -- I didn’t grow up rooting for the hometown Redskins. This is about everyone from the surrounding I-495 beltway area, fan or not. Young’s arrival as a first-round pick one year after Dwayne Haskins’ first-round arrival brings an immense amount of pride for those familiar with the amount of football talent in the region. The DMV is widely known as an incubator for basketball stars (see: Durant, Kevin), but its football culture is just as rich.
As improbable as it seems today, it would be monumental for two players at impact positions like quarterback and defensive end to turn their hometown NFL team into a winner. That’s where my mind went the moment it seemed possible Young would land in Washington.
Haskins didn’t move to Maryland until his high school years, but he made his name as one of the best prep quarterbacks in the country at Bullis School in Potomac, Md. While he was doing his thing in the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC), Young was coming into his own at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, Md., before enrolling at DeMatha before his junior year.
I was still in my first year as a high school sports reporter at the time, though I didn't forecast today’s reality as a possible outcome. But they both showed flashes of pro potential. It was at possibly the height of the DMV to UMD movement: A push to get local talent to stay home and turn the University of Maryland into a football juggernaut. Arguably no name was bigger during that time than Haskins, who of course ended up signing with Ohio State. A year later, Young joined him as a Buckeye as other local talent committed to places like Penn State (Shane Simmons) and Alabama (Trevon Diggs).
Some players did stay in Maryland, but not enough to turn around the Terps’ fortunes in that era, and not enough to uplift a football community dealing with the downward trajectory of a Redskins team reeling from the spiraling career of Robert Griffin III.
Oftentimes, when high school stars leave for college, they’re seemingly lost forever to the locals. Even when they return home as professionals, it’s hard not to feel like they belong to the world and their adopted homes.
With Young and Haskins, the Redskins have the rare combination of potential stars on offense and defense, returning home to begin their pro careers for the same hometown football team -- after playing on the same college team. If those two are able to lead Washington to a Super Bowl, it would be a story more improbable than LeBron James bringing a championship to Cleveland. And they're not the only homegrown talent on the Redskins. Haskins and Young are joined on the Redskins by other local talent including cornerback Ronald Darby (Potomac HS, Oxon Hill, Md.), cornerback Kendall Fuller (Good Counsel HS, Olney, Md.) and safety Sean Davis (Maret School, Washington, D.C.).
As for the DMV to Maryland movement? It’s actually doing pretty well these days with the return of Mike Locksley. Maryland has a top 20 recruiting class for 2021, according to 247sports. On Tuesday, top recruit Caleb Williams put Maryland in his top three list. But no one is bringing more hope to fans these days than Young.
The night he was drafted by the Redskins, a crowd gathered around his parents' house and stood in the rain, singing the team's fight song.
"I get to play in front of my family. I get to put on for where I'm from," Young said. "I get to be an inspiration for all the young kids growing up in my area."
"I get to play for the Washington Redskins," he said proudly. "A team that I've watched growing up."
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