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Little things, big picture: Monroe Young’s secret to success

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NOVEMBER 18, 2022

Should the Seahawks have run the ball? 


Wide receiver Monroe Young lights up as any devoted sports fan would when asked about that one heart-wrenching memory. (From the two dissolved 3-1 leads in 2016 to the Seahawks’ infamous should’ve-run-the-ball incident just one year prior, professional sports are truly heartbreakers).

Yes! Oh, my God, yes! That one hurt that year, gosh,” Young exasperated. 

Young would know all too well: His father played for the Seattle Seahawks. Young’s father, Fredd Young, is “definitely” his idol — because it’s the little things, like family (and snap decisions about whether or not to run the ball) that really make a football player special.

In fact, his father was the one who imparted this wisdom upon the now-redshirt senior. 

“He always harped on (to) just focus on the little things, and that’ll lead to the big things,” Young said. “So, I make a point in everything that I do to make sure everything is done right, all the little things are done right. And that will lead to the bigger picture.”

The trick lies in the little things. And maybe that was the secret to Young’s career-first touchdown reception on Oct. 29 against Oregon. The communication between the quarterback and the wide receiver is crucial — and it’s all in the details. Even before the snap, Young said, he knew the ball was headed straight towards him. Kai Millner, Cal’s second string quarterback, “put it on the money,” and led to a monumental first in the wide receiver’s time in college football. 

“This is what I came here to do: score touchdowns and make the plays. So when it finally happens, you’re just so grateful and you soak in the moment,” said Young. 

Though wide receiver may be printed loud and clear under his name, that was not always his position. All throughout high school, until his senior year, Young played defensive back. Cal was one of his only wide receiver offers — one he took eagerly. 

At the end of the season, Young finds himself with two big touchdowns under his belt. And the blue and gold jersey got a revamp, too — come Saturday, Young will step out onto the field in a brand-new jersey and glossy yellow helmet.

As much as he is Young’s idol, it also seems as though his father is his biggest fan. The night before his first touchdown, Young’s father told him he was going to get in the end zone tomorrow — and, boy, did he. 

So, maybe, it really is in the little things — like a text message from your dad the night before the game.

When asked if Young had any special talents — after a long pause — he decided he was in fact quite good at poker. 


Does he have a good poker face? 

Yes — but not when it comes to playing Mafia.

“I can’t hold it in. Poker, I’m fine, but Mafia … they can read me like a book,” Young laughed.

Every weekend, Cal football turns its rivalry inwards for a big game of Mafia. All the way until bed check before game days, Cal’s football players split into groups of 16 or 17 and play for what can sometimes be up to three hours. And it gets intense. 

While all of Cal football partakes in the weekly Mafia games, poker seems to be reserved only for the wide receivers. This year’s receiver core is exceptionally strong, and to Young, that means everything. 

“We’re always hanging out… doing stuff like playing video games together,” Young said. “We hop on a party on (a call) and all talk, so it’s pretty cool.”

Young’s favorite game is the new Modern Warfare, in case anyone was wondering. 

But despite seeing his fellow receivers as his closest friends, the redshirt senior still sees himself in a leadership role, especially among such a young group. 

“I’m more of a lead by example type of guy. So, when I’m at practice or in the weight room, I always make sure to do the right things right,” Young said. “Playing that leadership role, especially in the receiver room where there’s not a lot of old guys with experience, I take that role very seriously.”

Even his leadership, and the consequent success of the wide receiver core, lies in the details. First, you’re talking to each other over a headset. The next thing you know you’re on the field making the big catch. 

It’s hardly an overstatement to say that Young and his teammates live and breathe football. From offseason practices to conference games, Young spends most of his time engulfed by the stadium floodlights. However, when he takes off his helmet and replaces his cleats with sneakers, he isn’t against enjoying the more trivial things in life. Quite the contrary, in fact. 

For instance, bromance is definitely not lost on Young and his teammates. 

“It’s important to build friendships with the guys in the locker room. Because I know that these guys are going to be my friends and my brothers after college. A lot of guys are probably going to be at my wedding one day.” Could he possibly already have a best man in mind? It seems that at the end of the day, blood indeed triumphs over water, as Young chuckled at the question but revealed no hesitation. 

“Best man? It’s probably gonna be my older brother.”

As far as little things go, the world does not seem like one. As much of a homebody as he claims to be, Young has certainly seen his fair share of the world, but one trip especially stood out.

“We went to Chris Rogers’ ranch for the bye week this year. And we all got to ride four wheelers. We went fishing in his pond, shot guns, it was just a boys trip, a getaway from the season. That’s my favorite Cal memory.”

Four wheelers and shotguns aside, a huddle of football players fishing by the lake surely would’ve been a sight to behold. 

Some say that fear is the greatest motivator. Monroe Young, however, says it’s his future. But when Monroe talked about the future, there was not a single trace of fear in his eyes. 


As much as Young loves the game, he’s a pragmatic guy.

“Not everyone plays football their whole lives,” said Young. “Yeah, (the draft) is plan A. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Plan B is.”

For the average person, “figuring out” doesn’t exactly entail graduating with a legal studies degree in three years nor obtaining a graduate certificate in business administration shortly after. But Young has long set his sights on an MBA and venturing into the business field, and thus the usual fog that enshrouds the not-yet-crossed-off calendar dates clears by the minute. 

When all is said and done, Young wants to be remembered as a family man.

“I just care a lot about my family. And not only the family that I have now, but my future family and kids and wife that I’m going to have. So everything that I’m doing now is to set myself and my family up for success in the future.”

And so, as the last weeks of the 2022 football season slip through the hourglass, Monroe Young’s jar of memory puzzle pieces — from Mafia nights with his teammates to phone calls with his allegedly psychic dad — is ever-increasing. Knowing him, Young is not afraid to zoom out every once in a while to take it all in. And who knows, maybe one of those times, he just might be able to glimpse the ultimate big picture of the destination that awaits him. 

Contact Maria Kholodova at  or on Twitter


NOVEMBER 18, 2022