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Carolina Panthers

Inside the Panthers' "conviction" toward Bryce Young

Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE – Bryce Young and David Tepper shared a moment last February in Arizona.

The Panthers' owner told the Alabama quarterback that Carolina would seek a quarterback in this year's draft.

It just so happened that events over the next two months would point to Young, a Heisman Trophy-winning, record-setting Crimson Tide signal-caller who had routinely succeeded throughout his football career, as the choice for Carolina, the team that traded up from No. 9 to secure him at No. 1.

General manager Scott Fitterer said they felt "overwhelming conviction" toward Young during a draft meeting in February – yes, the month before the trade with Chicago – thanks to a years-long evaluation from area scouts and Robert Haines. Head coach Frank Reich, a couple of weeks into his new job at Carolina, attended that meeting and listened.

"I sat in this meeting that Scott's running, and they're talking, and Scott and all the scouts are talking about all the quarterbacks – all of them," Reich said. "We're watching film. Scouts are talking about (Young).

"And basically, Scott proposes a question at the end of that meeting, like, 'Hey, so, if we trade up, where's our conviction?' And it was unanimous with every guy in that room, starting from Scott on down, that Bryce was the guy. That was great for me to hear."

Having stepped into meetings with evaluators who'd pored over Young since before he could declare for the NFL, Reich trusted their judgment, but he also had the time to form his own opinion. And then there was all the chatter about Reich and height preferences and how Young is 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches tall.

But it didn't take Reich long to get on board. Young's film didn't disappoint.

"It wasn't much convincing," he said. "You just watched the tape. There's a lot said about the size. At the end of the day, there are a lot of factors that go into it. But we're coaches; we're scouts. We watched the tape. And when you watch the tape, Bryce Young is the best player."

Still, the Panthers' brass committed to a thorough evaluation process after securing the first choice through a lengthy trade process (detailed in this story about the way the deal went down). They brought a dozen or more team representatives to all four pro days for the consensus top quarterbacks, took them to dinner, and invited them all to top 30 visits.

Young kept standing out.

"Throughout the process, he checked every box that we had," Fitterer said. "We tested him. We talked to him. We had dinner with him. And just every time we met with him, we felt more and more convicted. And we liked all the guys, but Bryce was the guy that we really felt strongly about."

So what happened? Fitterer beamed while he told a story from dinner with Young when he fielded a question from the Panthers' contingent about his practice habits and weekly process. Fitterer said Young spoke with the kind of detail you can't make up, estimating his Sunday-to-Tuesday exposition took about 10 minutes.

Young earnestly grinned when asked about the conversation in a press conference following his selection, saying that his weekly planning process was "a little bit long-winded of an answer; I'll save everyone from having to sit through that."

But Reich, Fitterer, and Tepper didn't seem to mind it. In fact, that "long-winded" answer turned out to be a big plus.

"At one point, Scott and I and Mr. Tepper kind of made eye contact, like, 'This is crazy,'" Reich said. "He got into how he was studying the film, and some of the things he said about that. I looked at Mr. Tepper; he looked at Scott. It was like, this is next-level stuff.

"And listen, we've all been around, and we've all heard good stuff. The other guys said good stuff too. But this was just at a level that was different."

Young said he felt a similar sentiment after meeting Carolina's ownership, front office, and coaches. He liked the vision he heard.

"Individually, I learned a lot," Young said of talks with the Panthers. "And I was able to hear about their philosophy, hear about their system, about their approach, what they expect from the quarterback position, things they like and don't like. And for me, I was able to take a lot, even from that, in our short time."

David Tepper

Young also said he liked how Carolina's leadership was interested in him as a person and how he'd fit into the team culture, placing value in the process they put together.

Once draft night came around, and the Panthers were on the clock with the top pick, Young didn't know if he'd be the choice.

He finally knew it once a number with the Charlotte area code flashed on his phone.

And on the other end of the line, Tepper greeted the Panthers' quarterback of the future – the one who had the conviction for months, and the one he'd talked to back in February.

"You remember in Arizona, at the Super Bowl, when I told you we were going to pick a quarterback this year?" Tepper asked. "I wasn't kidding. So you want to trade in some Sweet Home Alabama for some Sweet Carolina?"

Young didn't know then that he'd end up in Charlotte, but he'll head over feeling gracious.

"I always knew that God would guide me to the right place, and wherever I ended up was where I was supposed to be," Young said. "I didn't know where it was going to be. I didn't have any confirmation. I didn't honestly look too deep into it. And I'm super grateful that things played out the way that they did."

View photos of Young in the green room and on-stage after he was picked first by the Panthers.

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