LAKE FOREST — For a few weeks, Willie Young was “Free Agency Prize No. 2” for the Bears, behind fellow defensive end Lamarr Houston. With Jared Allen and some rookies added to the mix, along with some key re-signings, Young may be easy to forget when discussing the new-look Bears defense.
The former Lion is expected to be a key factor in the pass rush, coming to Chicago following his breakout season, when he had 47 tackles, three sacks and five passes defensed while starting 15 games. Young has one key motto he relies on.
“Adapt and overcome is the key to success right now,” he said following Wednesday’s OTA practice. “Just getting used to a new scheme, the environment, the city, the fans and everything that people might not pay attention to, but it plays a big factor in being successful and the start of a new beginning.”
Part of the fun for Young thus far has been working with veterans Allen and Jeremiah Ratliff. “I remember playing video games [as] Ratliff when I was in high school. It’s kind of crazy,” Young said.
Allen, the big-ticket get in free agency, has showed Young a thing or two as well about rushing the passer.
“He’s like a coach sometimes because he has so much to offer,” Young said. “I find myself afterwards writing a lot of it down so I can retain it a little better.”
Joining an impressive defensive line group shouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for Young coming from the group in Detroit. He said he learned a lot from Kyle Vanden Bosch about his attitude and his motor.
“Effort says a lot. Demeanor, your body language, it all goes a long way,” he said.
Young and other defensive linemen worked on what appeared to be some hand-to-hand combat off to the side at the end of Wednesday’s practice, as that group is a beneficiary of the Bears’ hire of martial arts expert Joe Kim, the team’s assistant strength/skill development coach.
“It’s night and day with my hands right now, just over the course of two months,” Young said. “[Kim] is a great guy, definitely helping with the craft. The whole intention is to better your success.”
Like the rest of the 2014 defense, the 6-4, 251-pound Young’s exact role in this defense is not entirely known, though he figures to be the No. 3 defensive end, playing often in nickel situations and rotating with the rest of the line.
“I’m the type of guy, it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’m going to make the best of my opportunities,” he said. “Before I got to Detroit a couple years ago, I wasn’t used to getting off read and react so fast, but I was able to adapt and overcome and make a living for myself doing it. Same thing applies here. A new beginning, adapt and overcome and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Two common themes with Young: “adapt and overcome,” and something Bears fans will learn, his love of fishing.
“Whenever they put me in the game, [my role is] to make plays,” he said. “Make plays all through the year, go home, go fishing, and then come on back and start all over again.”
Young said he has already discovered a nearby fishing spot.
“Had a chance to fish Lake Geneva,” he said with a big smile. “It was loaded.”