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Football Q&A: Kelsey Young leverages speed at both receiver and running back

If you don’t know exactly what to call sophomore Kelsey Young, join the club. He’s one of Stanford’s fastest offensive players, a running back by training who has broken onto the playing field as a receiver since transitioning last spring.

Sophomore Kelsey Young, shown scoring his first career touchdown on a fly sweep against Arizona, transitioned from running back to receiver last offseason. He’s perhaps Stanford’s fastest player on the field given the recent injury to sophomore receiver Ty Montgomery. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

“When he sees something, and he just lets his instincts take over, he can be electric,” said running backs coach Mike Sanford.

Young’s has caught four passes for 18 yards this season; his 88 rushing yards also make him the Cardinal’s second-leading rusher behind Stepfan Taylor. He got into the endzone for the first time in college with a 55-yard fly sweep against Arizona. The Daily spoke to him recently about playing under former Cardinal great Toby Gerhart’s dad, managing two positions and earning his first touchdown.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): The first thing I hear about you when I talk to anyone is speed. I want to clarify this because I’ve gotten a few different answers from different people, but if you put the whole team in a footrace, where do you finish?

Kelsey Young (KY): Well, 40 times in the spring have Ty Montgomery ahead of me, and I’m probably right behind him, neck-and-neck with him. So that’s what the 40 time says, but on the field I feel like nobody can catch me.

TSD: You went to Norco High School and were coached by Toby Gerhart’s dad. I’m sure you heard a lot about Stanford going there.

KY: Yeah, definitely. When he was going here they would always talk about the Stanford program, the football team, just a smashmouth program, kind of like what Norco prides themselves on having. So that really intrigued me about the running downhill attack, up the middle, head-on collisions and everything.

TSD: The coaching staff isn’t really sure where you use you yet. You’ve played some at wide receiver, some at running back. What does that mean for you in terms of practices, meetings, film study — how do you juggle both of those positions at the same time?

KY: Yeah, definitely. My whole life I’ve been playing running back, so it’s like lately they’ve been really trying to groom me as a receiver. More I’m in the meeting rooms with receivers just to know the caveats of that position more often, and as a running back I think that’s more of my instinctual talent, just because I’ve been playing it for my entire life.

TSD: Where do you see yourself in two years? I talked to coach Sanford and he told me he doesn’t necessarily see you as an every-down back, because of your explosiveness. Do you see yourself as a running back or a receiver?

KY: I see myself — I mean, I’m not trying to get ahead of myself or anything — but my goal before I leave Stanford is to compete to be the best running back and receiver in the country. So just to pride myself as both, not only to be an explosive player but to also get a good ground, a good basis where I can run up the middle on every down. And then if they need me as a receiver, in the slot or outside, I can do the same thing. So it might not be a seemingly realistic goal, but it’s definitely something that I pride myself on.

TSD: One last question: Talk about that fly sweep against Arizona that you scored on. Why do you think it’s so suited to you? You’ve run it a few times.

KY: Definitely, because especially for [that] game, the previous play Remound Wright went up the middle for about 15 yards, so after that I would assume that the defense had just crowded up the middle, thinking that we would do the same thing since we had success. But then, I think that the coaches used me kind of as a haymaker, you know, to come out the side once the defense was clogged up the middle, to sweep it outside. I had a couple of those plays during the season but I never really got the chance to get outside, so this time I really got the chance to get outside and everybody blocked for me, so I was able to get that touchdown.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the executive editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.
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