How Isaiah Wharton molded Avery Young into new leader of Rutgers secondary
In football, availability is often cited as the best ability. In 2018, alumnus and current Minesota Vikings defensive back Isaiah Wharton became only the second Rutgers football team corner to make 48 consecutive starts. The first was alumnus Courtney Greene, who achieved the mark exactly one decade earlier.
But, there is a corner on this year's roster that has a chance at the feat after an exceptional true freshman season.
Sophomore defensive back Avery Young started a streak of his own last year, seeing his first action in week one and starting the next 11 games.
"I told him when he stepped on the field after (alumnus cornerback Blessuan Austin) went down, no one cares that he's a freshman anymore. He's a starter with a responsibility to perform," Wharton said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Targum.
The lack of a start in that first week forfeits Young from the possibility of matching Wharton's regular season streak. But, were he reach a bowl game with the Scarlet Knights, he would have the chance to achieve a mark similar to his former captain.
But before Young can run down that revered 48th start, he must first tackle his 12th next Friday against UMass. That start kicks off a sophomore season in which he, according to his coaches, is expected to take a leadership role just as Wharton did a year earlier.
"That's my OG, that's my big bro," Young said. "He's taught me a lot, how to deal with adversity on this level because he's seen a lot of it, how to work and what I should be doing on my off days and what I should be doing when watching film. He's taught me so much so I definitely appreciate him."
Young's first year on the Banks overlapped with the last year of Wharton's. They became two of the only constants on a secondary that was arguably the team's strongest in a 1-11 2018 season.
Wharton and Young combined for 128 tackles, two interceptions and 18 pass breakups last year. They formed a youth and experience tandem that could be found making plays each and every week in the grind of a lost season.
"I talked to him about leadership all the time," Wharton said. "He has his own knack for rallying teammates no matter what the score is (Young) is going to give it everything he has till the final whistle each week and the whole team knows that ... Developing that respect from his teammates will help him become a captain one day."
This year, Young is joined by a little brother of his own with true freshman running back Aaron Young joining Rutgers. Aaron Young is expected to make contributions on offense right from the get-go just as his older brother did last year.
Perhaps the presence of Aaron Young will create a channel for Wharton's influence to manifest on that side of the ball in 2019.
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