Safety Usama Young lifts weights during voluntary off-season workouts. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Usama Young, a safety who joins the Raiders after four years with the New Orleans Saints and two years with the Cleveland Browns, is getting to know the Bay Area. The veteran, heading into his seventh year in professional football, is doing his best to explore Oakland and the surrounding cities during the off-season, while at the same time, getting to know all of his new teammates.
"As far as with the team, I wouldn't say there's anything I'm looking forward to other than winning," said Young. "But as far as the city, I've enjoyed the weather. I've enjoyed getting out and taking walks and seeing some of the scenery. I've enjoyed going out to different places to eat, enjoying the seafood."
One of the things Young noticed immediately while exploring the Bay Area was the supportive fan base. "During the off-season I think it's one of those times where you're not only working to get better, but in a new city, you get to see the city and see the supporting fan base," said Young. "That's what I've seen. A lot of people have recognized me or heard the name and they're like, 'Oh yeah, we're looking for big things.' And you see that. Oakland, they're really into the Raiders success. They want you to win and that's what I'm getting in this week that I've been here. I'm excited for that."
In his first week at Raiders headquarters, Young immersed himself in the daily activities of working out, meetings, getting to know teammates, learning the playbook and getting settled in a new environment. He, along with many of his teammates, recognizes the importance of building camaraderie early to see success in the future.
"With those new guys, you form new bonds and build friendships," explained Young. "You get a lot closer and they almost become family. Going to a new team, not to say you're looking for friends or anything, but you're looking to be successful. To be successful, I think you have to form those bonds and you have to get close to your teammates and learn that this is going to be the guy you're counting on to perform and you have to be a guy they count on to perform. At the highest of levels, I feel like going to a new team is a new opportunity."
Young also wants the opportunity to make a difference in the local community. Young started his own foundation a few years ago called the Usama Young Youth Foundation. The impact he made back in Cleveland and his hometown of Washington, D.C., he hopes to make here in Oakland. "Just getting out there and making a change and instilling values in the youth," said Young. "That's something that's near and dear to me. I had good role models in my house and a lot of kids don't have that. If you can be an outside person that they don't really think will be there for them that I can show them that as a professional athlete, I think it's major that they see that."
He started his foundation because of his ability to make a difference as a professional athlete. "I saw children out on the corner not doing too much, saw them being complacent with where they were," said Young. "Going out to schools on a regular basis, I always talk to them about improving, improving themselves and getting their grades up, maintaining their grades, and thinking about going to college. I was doing all those visits every week and I said, 'You know what? I need to start doing something that's more of on a consistent basis.' I went out to the schools and I talked to the kids about goal setting and about life lessons and about just being successful."
Young expanded his role in the community by hosting a football and cheerleading camp, as well as a college tour back in the Virginia and Washington D.C. area. "It ended up being a thing where I said, 'You know what? I'm going to have a free camp and we're going to bring them in using football and cheerleading, but we're also going to talk about those life lessons as well,'" said Young. "The free camp has grown. This will be my fifth year doing a camp and I'm about to do a college tour on May 3, taking the kids to Virginia and it's going to be a couple busloads of kids from the DC/Maryland area. Hopefully I get to do that on the West Coast, but as of right now, doing it in my hometown. It's something that I look forward to on a regular basis from my college tours to my weekly school visits to the football and cheerleading camp."
Young works hard in the community, just as he plans to work hard on the field. "[Raider Nation] should know that on the football field, I'm going to give it my all," said Young. "In the community, I'm going to give it my all. As far as a person, you're going to get somebody that's all for getting better, improving, trying to be great. That's my major goal – trying to be great. Whether that's on the field, in the community, in my home, I'm trying to do great things."
The D.C.-native grew up knowing quite a bit about the Silver and Black. His father was a Raiders fan. Young grew up knowing about the Raiders tradition and the style of football. "I grew up in a household with my pops; he loved the Raiders earlier on," said Young. "He grew up a Raiders fan, more of that just hard-nosed, physical, smash-mouth football."
Young learned even more about the Raiders when he came into the NFL. "One thing I noticed coming into the league, everybody on the Raiders always looked big to me," said Young. "Every time we played them, you look across the field and you think, 'Man, these dudes look huge.' It's an intimidating thing going into the stadium and seeing the fans, seeing how physical the team plays."
Now that he's a part of the tradition, Young is ready to play in front of the passionate Raiders fans. "You get hyped in front of the home crowd and even more hyped when they're excited, when they're not sitting down," said Young. "I'm out here for the Raider Nation. Now I've got that crowd backing me. I'm looking forward to it."
Look for new Raiders safety Usama Young on the field, in the community, and on Twitter @usama_young28