When Darrel Young arrived at Redskins Park in early 2010 for a second shot at making his NFL dream a reality, he already had a keen understanding of the business side of the game.
The year before as a rookie, Young lasted all of two games on Washington's practice squad before losing his job. Soon enough though, he found another job – at Finish Line.
"When I went back to Redskins Park, I had $42 in my account," Young said. "I had to just park my car because I didn't have enough money for gas."
Now, with six successful NFL seasons in his rearview mirror but with an unexpected year out of football motivating him, Young is out to prove he has more left in the tank.
And this time, the business side of the NFL has granted him even more of an opportunity to do just that.
A fullback, Young signed a future contract with the Panthers on January 3. Earlier this week, the Panthers released three-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert, leaving Young as the most experienced and proven fullback on the roster by a long shot.
"I was real excited about getting to meet Tolbert. But there's always the business part of things, and I've been a part of that," said Young, who is currently working out in his native New York in preparation for his NFL return. "I know what can happen with teams deciding to go in a different direction. It was surprising, but it's an opportunity. I wish him nothing but the best. I don't want to come in and replace him; I want to learn and grow from some of the things he did do."
Young did some similar things during his time in Washington. He was a durable and reliable option, scoring seven rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns from 2010-2015, but the Redskins allowed him to become a free agent in 2016.
"The Panthers called me last year during free agency – the first day of free agency – and said they had some interest but that they had Tolbert, who they really, really liked," Young said. "I never heard back from them, but in October I worked out for them during the bye week. I felt good coming out of that, felt good leaving that day.
"I didn't know what was going to happen, but I said to myself, 'I think something good is going to happen down here.' "
Last season was tough on Young. He signed with the Bears early in training camp but didn't make the 53-man roster, and a couple of subsequent tryouts proved dead ends. Head coach Ron Rivera made a positive impression on Young when he worked out in Charlotte, however, and now he's excited about Rivera's plans to return to more of a traditional power running game while also looking to expand the offense's short passing game.
"Coach Rivera saying that, that's something I'm excited about," Young said. "I'm a guy who is hard-working and hard-nosed, and I just do what I'm supposed to do. It's about just doing your job, and everything else will fall into place."
During Young's time with Washington, head coach Mike Shanahan helped him learn to use his hands as both a bruising blocker and as weapons in the passing game. They were lessons Young had to learn the hard way because coming out of Villanova as an undrafted rookie in 2009, he had zero experience as a fullback.
"I was a linebacker as a rookie. I played running back in high school, but I had never blocked anybody in my life." said Young, who played linebacker and safety in college. "Mike Shanahan pulled me into his office and said, 'We have 13 linebackers and we drafted three. We have one fullback. You're not going to make the team as a linebacker, but if you want to play fullback, we'll try it out and go from there.' That's how it all started."
That conversation occurred leading up to the 2010 season, after Young had spent most of his rookie year selling shoes at a Finish Line near Villanova. It proved a chance for Young to start over – a chance similar to the one now being offered by the Panthers.
"That conversation was on March 15, 2010. I'll never forget the date," Young said. "It was a day that changed my life as far as my dream of being in the NFL. Here I am seven years later talking about it.
"Now I'm excited to be a Panther, excited about furthering my career."