Recently, S Usama Young visited the football team at Castlemont High School in Oakland. The Raiders safety spoke to the student-athletes about setting goals and taking the extra steps to accomplish those goals.
“I talked to the students while they were in study hall,” said Young. “Talked about being a leader. Talked about setting goals. Talked about having a backup plan, different things I took personally and I made sure that I did along my journey to get where I’m at now. I think the kids got a lot from it. I think they were absorbing some of the information I said and hopefully I reached one of them. That’s the main goal is to reach one and hopefully they spread the word to others.”
Castlemont’s head football coach Clyde Byrd wanted his team to see a positive role model in Young. “It’s an example. He’s an example of what can happen,” said Byrd. “He gives hope and encouragement to our kids and our community that anything can happen. Hard work, dedication and getting an education, going to college -- he’s an example if they do all that, then this is what can happen to them. He’s a tremendous role model for us.”
Assistant coach Lloyd Johnson, who also works in security for the Raiders, wanted a Raiders player to be real with his football players. “He spoke like a true person, just gave it to them like it’s supposed to be,” said Johnson. “He had a person [in his life] who made him think he couldn’t do what he wanted to do, his dreams, but he did his dreams.”
“Being a coach, it’s hard to get kids attention on the field,” Johnson continued. “By sitting there watching him, he got everybody’s attention. Everybody was focused. They asked questions and I think he hit some good points for the players.”
Young, who grew up in Washington D.C., understands how critical high school is for the young athletes. “I know that this is a very pivotal time in their lives,” said Young. “Being in high school, being an adolescent, they have a lot of stuff going on. They’ve got their mind going from here to there, from classes to sports to girls to every little thing. To be able to come in and say, ‘hey, this is a professional player and he actually cares, he actually cares about what we have going on,’ I think that means a lot to them.”
Young was able to share his story, one similar to the students at Castlemont High, and inspire them to work towards whatever they aspire. “We’re in their backyard and it’s good for the kids to see players come out and talk to them and experience what they went through to get where they are,” said Johnson. “Everybody has dreams; some dreams come true, some dreams don’t. His dream came. And for him to come to Castlemont, it means a lot.”
Young wanted to give back to the community on his day off, something he has been doing frequently since he entered the NFL. “It’s something that was instilled in me at an early age,” said Young. I still remember when I was younger in downtown D.C. serving the homeless, making soup, making meals for homeless families. Now that I’m in a position where I can give back a lot, whether it’s money, time, advice, I’m going to do as much as possible.”