It happens all the time during training camp. Veteran offensive tackle Sam Young will gaze across the field toward the bleachers and see a father and son watching practice. That was him he would say to himself. That was him sitting in those bleachers as a kid many summers ago, watching practice with his father and brother, never daring to dream that someday he would be in a Dolphins' uniform.
"I guess you could say my life has come full circle," Young said.
Full circle indeed. You may not hear his name very often, but Sam Young has an important place on this team, a reserve offensive tackle so versatile enough he can play on either side. This is his ninth season in the league, his third with the Dolphins. He never, not for a one minute, takes for granted how fortunate he is to be playing the game he loves and, of course, playing it in his hometown.
He shows that gratitude, in part, by giving back. On Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, the Dolphins are promoting cancer awareness. Fighting cancer is Young's passion. It has touched his life, affecting family members and close friends. And he has done something about it. Young is on the Board of Directors of the Dolphins Cancer Challenge. He is the only player on the Board and he approaches that role the same way he does blocking Cam Wake on the practice field: With everything he's got.
"I'm all in," he says.
Sitting by his locker after a recent practice, Young spoke of his hometown journey, his commitment to cancer research and, of course, his lifelong passion for football in the following 10 questions.
1) Let's start with your involvement with the DCC. What drew you to this?
SY: Cancer has affected not only family members of mine, but loved ones and close friends as well. There is a desperate need for funding. Partnering with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is so important because they are on the forefront of research and finding a cure. I throw my full weight behind this cause. It's local. I'm from the community. It just makes sense for me.
2) What is your role on the Board of Directors?
SY: I help raise funds. I help with cancer awareness. I help getting my teammates involved. Like I said, it's personal for me. When I was asked to be on the Board, I was floored. I take this very seriously because it is very serious.
3) You grew up in South Florida, went to high school in Fort Lauderdale and now play for the team you grew up following. What does that mean to you?
SY: (Laugh). It's pretty cool. My parents come to every game. My wife Lauren is from here. We're home. You can't beat it. I can't count all the games I went to as a kid at Joe Robbie Stadium. Whoever knew it would lead to this? I'm fortunate in so many ways. I have great memories following the Dolphins from a very young age on.
4) So how big a Dolphins' fan were you?
SY: Well, I had a copy of a full-page story on Zach Thomas on my bedroom wall. I mean I was one of the kids lining up at the fence after practice asking for autographs. I had this program I used to have players sign. I remember getting Jason Taylor's autograph. It was a big deal. I remember also getting Oronde Gadsden's autograph. Dave Wannstedt even came over once and signed my program. At that point in my life, I had no expectations about a playing career. I was just a kid following my favorite team, a kid looking for autographs.
5) Back to football, you've made it nine years in this league, played in 81 games with 20 starts. Is there a secret to longevity?
SY: A lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. Maybe a lot of luck. It's all about getting an opportunity and making the most of it. I guess that defines my career. There are a couple of times I probably should have been out of the league and then the ball just bounced my way. I'm just so fortunate to be here right now and play the game I love.
6) What is it that you love about it?
SY: I get to go up against the best in the world every single day. There are no maybes. You win or you lose. Think about it, I get to practice against Cam Wake and Robert Quinn every day. It's something I'll never take for granted. It's pretty cool.
7) Two of the five starting offensive linemen are already lost for the season. You are the back up offensive tackle on both sides. How do you stay ready?
SY: You have to be ready. You are expected to fill an important role. It can be challenging especially playing the left and the right side because you never really know where you're going to be needed. We have high standards in that offensive line room. It's important I live up to those standards and be ready. It's important I prepare the right way every week as if I'm starting that game.
8) Tell us about your life off the field?
SY: My wife Lauren and I have a three-month-old daughter Riley. They mean everything to me. Football isn't forever so I have to be prepared whenever that time comes. For the past two years, I've attended the Business Combine in New York hosted by Steve Ross to learn as much as I can. I've had several internships, one with an investment bank another with affordable housing. I'm searching for my passions. As far as life now, I like to fish and I recently got into paddle boating. I've got so much family here and so many friends, there's always a lot to do.
9) You're a big man at 6-foot-8, over 300 pounds. What do you like to eat?
SY: Actually, I have to eat a ton of food just to keep weight on. I'm not really a sweets type of person. Give me a big breadbasket and I'm happy. Love those carbs. Oh yes, and I can eat gyros all day.
10) Look into a crystal ball and tell us what you're doing 20 years from now?
SY: That will make me about 50 years old. I know I want to be watching my daughter go off to college. Really, I'd like to be able to say I'm a success in three categories: Husband, father and businessman. If I can check off those three boxes, I'm doing all right. But that's all down the road. Right now, I'm having fun every single day. I'm so fortunate to still be doing this. You can't beat it, you really can't.