Judging by the glowing remarks that have come out about Chase Young since the Redskins officially chose him second overall in the NFL Draft, plus the overall dismissal of any discussions regarding trading down, it sure seems like Young was Washington's target ever since Ron Rivera took over.
However, Rivera had the chance to describe how one unexpected conversation with the defender at the Combine assisted in making the selection of Young an even clearer one.
On Thursday night, about three hours after welcoming the 21-year-old on to the Burgundy and Gold as the first pick under his watch, the coach was happy to elaborate.
"He had kind of a little glitch in his schedule where he had an extra 15 minutes, so I went over and kind of nestled up to him away from everybody and we had a nice personal conversation just between the two of us," Rivera told local reporters on a Zoom call. "That 15 minutes really helped me in terms of just solidifying who he was for us."
Anyone with access to a screen and some Buckeyes highlights immediately sees the kind of havoc Young can create on the field. Rivera and the Redskins, who had already been studying Young for at least a few months before heading to Indianapolis for the Combine, were probably as aware of that as anyone in the league.
Why that specific interaction was so key, though, is because it allowed Rivera to learn about the personality and mindset of the athlete behind the impressive footage, an important yet onerous task made even more onerous by the strange offseason that's unfolded. Two guys got the opportunity to talk face-to-face, a simple concept that hasn't been so simple recently, and Rivera no doubt approved of what he learned in those moments.
Kyle Smith, the team's VP of Player Personnel, arrived to a similar conclusion — one where he, too, was enamored with Young's makeup — by chatting with those who've been around the defensive end.
"It’s the school call and it’s the way that everybody around that building talks about him," Smith said. "He just continued to grow and mature since he stepped foot on that campus. He’s a perfectionist, he’s a self-starter, all the things you look for in a football player, he’s got, and he’s wired the right way. So that part of it made me more confident."
One thing Rivera is very obviously looking to accomplish as he sets out to make winning a more regular occurrence in Washington is building a roster full of quality, focused people. Their speed, their tackling and their ability to high point a pass on the weekend all certainly matter to the 58-year-old, but he also craves a locker room that features those who align with his vision and beliefs.
In Young, Rivera has found someone who satisfies that goal.
"He’s an easy going, soft-spoken young man, but then you watch him on tape and you see the energy level in which he plays with, you see the desire, the drive, the push," he said. "Then, you sit down and talk to him about those things and watch his eyes light up when he talks about being on the field, so there were a lot of positives."
Those positives really appeared in a 15-minute discussion in Indy. And now, Rivera will have a lot more time than that to appreciate those positives in the future.
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