Young showed signs of clicking nearly one year ago when he rushed for a career-best 102 yards and two TDs on just 12 carries in a 65-0 home-opening route of North Texas. One week later, he was carried off the field at Arkansas while injured on a kickoff return. He remembers it like it was yesterday.
"It was crazy," he said. "I went down and I was laying in a room by myself with the team doctor. I heard the crowd roaring. It was a close game, I was just envisioning myself making those plays, of me doing that. All kinds of things were going through my mind."
His season was over, and part of that tailspin carried over to the classroom. Young was not academically eligible to compete last spring as sophomore RB Ramonce Taylor staked his claim as Cedric Benson's heir apparent. But Young was so desirous of making "a fresh start" that he has given his old jersey number (3) to backup RB Chris Ogbonnaya and now sports his former Little League football number (22).
"I just wanted to put everything behind me, coming back into school and coming back into football," he said. "It's a whole new start and a whole new slate. Number 22 was the number I had when I first started, when I first fell in love with the game."
Taking a cue from Benson's off-season commitment that resulted in a Doak Walker Award, Young hit the weight rooms and outdoor tracks nearly every day this summer.
"I would be by myself running in the hot sun," he recalled. "It was hot and I was just thinking about the toughness that (Benson) showed in the fourth quarter, getting stronger and being able to wear down defenses. I feel like I learned that from him, to be able to get strong and stay strong. I feel like I have that now."
Trainer Kenny Boyd reports that Young did not miss a single workout session all summer. Young has added about 10 pounds of lean muscle and now tips the scale at 6-0, 221 pounds. He also hopes the improved conditioning results in what would be a rare injury-free season for him. Young was hampered by a groin injury, suffered at Rice, during most of the 2003 season.
"He's had a sprained ankle, a pulled groin and a broken ankle," head coach Mack Brown said. "So maybe he's gotten rid of all that stuff and he's ready to be injury-free."
Young has rushed for 661 yards and 10 TDs in 26 career games yet his broken ankle was especially damaging to Texas' return game last season. By year's end, the Horns averaged just 7.33 ypr (NCAA No. 85) while the KO return game averaged a pedestrian 19.5 ypc (NCAA No. 69). It does raise a question, however, if the probable starting RB should risk injury by logging time on special teams.
"Coach is pretty cool about leaving it up to me," Young said. "He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to do it."
(Note: Brown told media Tuesday night that he has yet to have this conversation with Young, even though he and Ramonce Taylor have been fielding punts this week.)
"You probably won't see me doing much kickoff returns," Young continued, "but I fell in love with punt returns. I'm chasing Nate (Vasher) on a few of the things he got (Note: Vasher is Texas' career punt return leader with 1,314 yards). I just feel like that's where I started and I want to keep that. I want to be able to help out that part of the game."
Young boasts 1,622 career all-purpose yards (8.9 yards per play).
"I think Selvin feels like him getting hurt last year was a blessing because now he gets an extra year and he doesn't have to be in Cedric's shadow," Brown said. "He's also very sincere and honest about how he needs to earn the right to get that spot back. He's not there yet. He thinks he's well, but he's got some work to do to get back to full speed."
At the end of the spring, Taylor said he intended to enter August camp as if the starting job was his to lose. Young took a more diplomatic approach, echoing almost verbatim this week's coach-speak with regard to depth chart decisions.
"Right now, we don't have a depth chart," Young said. "That's our philosophy: no depth chart. Let's go out and practice hard every play and we'll see when the season starts. I think competition can make anybody better. I don't feel like we're competing for a starting job. I feel like we're just competing with each other. When the season comes, we'll rack up more yards. Our goal is to lead the nation in rushing. I feel like we've got the best tandem in the country."