RENTON, WA – Coming out of Middle Creek High School in North Carolina in 2017, Dareke Young wasn’t on the radar for many schools to play football at the next level and certainly didn’t part of a future NFL talent.
While his school lost just three games in his prep career, Young caught only 29 passes for 502 yards and five touchdowns, with his production impacted by a broken leg that cost him half of his senior season. Only 174 pounds and barely able to run under a 5.0 second 40-yard dash, he didn’t receive any Division I offers and only had a few opportunities to play collegiately at the time.
But as fate would have it, Young was not close to reaching his peak physically when he opted to sign with Lenoir Rhyne, a Division II school in Hickory, North Carolina. Five years after first stepping on campus, after navigating the plenty of adversity along the way, he transformed himself into a legitimate NFL prospect at 6-foot-3, 222 pounds with impressive athletic traits.
Taking the latest step in his unexpected journey to the league on Saturday, Young became the latest member of the Seahawks receiving corps when coach Pete Carroll called to inform him he had been selected with the 233rd overall pick in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft .
“I was confident that I would get drafted,” Young told reporters moments after receiving the call from Carroll. “I felt like I was getting good feedback from teams and my agent. I had a [top] 30 visit with Seattle, and I felt like it went perfectly. I felt like I impressed all the coaches and bonded with all the coaches that were there. Seattle just felt like the right fit when I was there and I’m glad they took a shot on me. ”
Even in today’s NFL where more small school prospects seem to vault up draft boards each year, it’s a rare occurrence when a Division II player gets selected. This year, only four players who starred below the FCS Division I level received a call during the annual seven-round event, with Young being the eighth player selected out of Lenoir Rhyne in program history.
Considering where he came from, how did the Seahawks even find out about Young? Several scouts descended on Charlotte’s pro day in April to watch him work out and general manager John Schneider said his scintillating performance immediately made him a target of interest. The team then met with him shortly after on a private visit and he knocked the visit out of the park, continuing to impress Carroll and the coaching staff.
“I thought it was great. I loved everything about it, the coaches, the facilities, even the workers. The workers were genuine, and they seemed liked they enjoyed being there and helping everybody out. I enjoyed everything, I soaked it all in, “Young said of his top-30 visit.
As Schneider noted, Young played a variety of roles in different offensive schemes during his five seasons with the Bears. As a sophomore, he logged 38 carries for 318 yards and four touchdowns as a part-time running back in a run-heavy scheme. The following year, he scored 12 touchdowns on just 74 offensive touches, averaging 20.6 yards per reception on 25 catches and contributing 335 rushing yards along with a 6.8 yards per carry average on the ground.
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Additionally, Young played extensive snaps on special teams throughout his college career, doing everything from covering kicks and punts to returning them. He even saw some action trying to block field goals. While he never made a house call returning a punt or kick for six points, he feels his ample experience in the third phase of the game will give him another avenue to make his mark in Seattle.
Even off the field, Young also excelled academically, grinding to graduate with a degree in engineering and physics. While he’s had to pause his current academic ambitions preparing for the NFL, he plans to finish an MBA program down the road as well, setting himself up to be a roaring success whenever he hangs up his cleats.
“I feel like the more that you can do, the better,” Young commented. “I feel like I’m definitely someone who can take handoffs and help the team out if that’s what they need me to do. I definitely feel like I could be someone who runs routes and makes plays down the field as well. Just being a guy who’s versatile and can do multiple things, I feel like that brings more value to a team and I feel like that’s what I bring. ”
Unfortunately, as most schools below Division I did, Young and his teammates lost their 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and despite returning to play in the spring in 2021, they wound up playing just four games. Young himself appeared in just two of those contests, but he exploded with nine catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in the SAC championship game, posting one of the best performances in school history.
Then, Young suffered an MCL injury that kept him out of all but five games last season. Still, he amassed 25 receptions for 303 yards and four touchdowns, earning Second-Team All-SAC honors. Once he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and a 6.88 3-cone drill and posted a 37-inch vertical jump at his pro day workout, he put himself squarely on the NFL map and the Seahawks decided to take a flier on the versatile skill player.
“Dareke is a guy that really showed up as a phenomenal tester in the spring, that brought you back to his, you know, the fall, at Lenoir-Rhyne, so a smaller school,” Schneider remarked. “And he’s played in a wing T, and then they move to a spread, so you can see him actually coming downhill blocking people and he’s a physical guy. But the workout that he had for the scouts in the spring was incredibly impressive, and he tested off the charts. “
Like most late-round picks leaping up from smaller colleges to the pros, Young will face a steep uphill climb to make Seattle’s roster in training camp. In front of him, the team already has star receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as well as 2021 second-round pick Dee Eskridge and 2020 sixth-round pick Freddie Swain. The team also drafted Rutgers wideout Bo Melton only four picks before him, leaving a crowded stable at the position.
To stand out against returning veterans such as Penny Hart and Cody Thompson, Young will have to cut his teeth on special teams and make the most of limited chances when he sees snaps at the receiver. Preseason games will also be a key part of his evaluation as he aims to prove he can hang with the big dogs.
But if there’s a reason to believe Young could become the next Chris Carson and play his way into an early role in Seattle as a seventh-round stud, his athletic traits have been matched by a few athletes of his size. Since 2000, per Pro Football Reference, only three receivers standing 6-foot-3 and weighing at least 220 pounds – Julio Jones, Tyrone Calico, and Miles Boykin – have ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, jumped 37 inches or higher vertically, and posted a sub-6.90 3-cone at the combine.
Obviously, athletic traits are only part of the equation and do not guarantee success alone. Most likely, Young will be a long-term project as he learns to get open against NFL cornerbacks. But with those tools and his academic background, after already beating the odds and then some to get drafted in the first place, nobody should count him out as he begins his career with the Seahawks later this week.