Class of 2022: Bryant Young – From 49ers gold to Pro Football Hall of Fame gold jacket

By Barry Wilner

Special for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

BRYANT YOUNG is No. 30 in the San Francisco 49ers Pro Football Hall of Fame Hall of Fame.

The outstanding defensive lineman for 14 seasons in San Francisco was a star in his freshman year of 1994 after being the seventh draft pick. He was a leader throughout his NFL career, earning individual honors and, most importantly, the respect of everyone in the sport.

Oh yeah, he also helped the Niners win the Super Bowl in his rookie season.

On Saturday, Young, a member of the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

“I’m grateful to Hall voters and honored to join the Class of 2022 and the 29 former 49ers who came before me,” Young said. “I have proudly worn gold throughout my career. I will treasure this jacket for the rest of my life.

Young was already a force in the NFL when he suffered a broken leg in 1998 so bad he was considered for amputation. His return to the lineup the following season was so spectacular (11 sacks, 41 tackles, including 19 for losses) that he was voted AP Comeback Player of the Year. He made the second of his four Pro Bowls that year.

He won the team’s prestigious Len Eshmont Award eight times for his “inspiring and courageous play”; no other member of the 49ers has won it more than twice.

“Football also brought adversity,” he noted. “In a November 1998 game against the Giants, my right leg was badly broken. There were complications. I could have lost my leg.

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“I fought back by playing another nine seasons. But while dealing with the injury, (wife) Kristin was pregnant with (daughter) Kai. Few knew it at the time.

Rather than being groomed, Kristin was taking care of me. My vulnerability and loss of control was disorienting.

“I learned things about trusting in God, living in doubt, accepting help. We passed the test.

With Kristin, Kai and four siblings on Saturday, Young then opened up about her late son, Colby.

Colby was born in 2001 and was a fun-loving youngster with, as his dad said, “an infectious smile.” At age 13, Colby started having headaches and doctors discovered a cancerous brain tumor.

“Colby was back at school eight days later,” Young said. “His spirit was good. He had the heart of a lion. My injury seemed trivial.

“Knowing the radiation would weaken him, doctors told Colby to give up football. It broke his heart, but he moved on and focused on basketball.

Colby’s health improved, but the cancer returned. Doctors tried immunotherapy, but it had spread too far too fast.

“Colby sensed where things were heading and had questions. He didn’t fear death as much as the dying process,” Young said. “Would it be painful? Would he be recalled?

“We assured Colby that we would keep his memory alive and continue to speak his name. On October 11, 2016, God called Colby home.

“Colby, you live on in our hearts,” Young continued with tears in his eyes. “We will always say your name.”

Young’s tearful conclusion to his speech offered his mantra.

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“I learned to trust God’s plan and timing, not mine,” he said. “In this year, my 10th year of eligibility, I am entering the Hall as a member of its class of 2022. Twenty-two.

“It was Colby’s favorite number.”

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