Ryan Young hasn't missed one snap since his NFL starting debut on September 12, 1999 when his former team, the New York Jets faced off against the New England Patriots.
The Jets chose him as their seventh round choice (223rd overall) in the 1999 draft. Most rookies who hear their name called that late in the pecking order have to claw tooth and nail to make the final August cut. Young made the 53-man roster and in just the ninth week of his rookie season, was the Jets starting right tackle where he remained through 2001.
"I went into camp with the attitude that I had to work harder and had more to prove," Young said. "But I had a real strong support staff with John Lott our strength coach and Bill Parcels. They really told me what I needed to do to be successful and make the team and I did it."
When Young's name appeared on New York's exposed list in the February expansion draft, the Texans wasted no time making him their second choice. When his name was called the second time around, Young received a somewhat different kind of welcome at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
"When I was drafted by the Jets back in 1999, I was booed in the seventh round," Young said on the day of the expansion draft. "To come out to a crowd like that was nice. That will be something that I'll never forget."
Young may have been booed four years ago from Madison Square Garden, but his performance over the following seasons just down the road at the Giants Stadium was highly touted. After his initial start, Young continued the streak with 40 consecutive more times as a regular in the trenches. It was a streak that helped running back Curtis Martin rush for 3,435 yards and allowed only one quarterback sack per game.
The 6-5, 320-pound tackle was an appealing prospect for the Texans. His resiliency, durability and youth were all qualities that the Texans had figured into their master plan.
"Everyone gets bumps and bruises but I've just been very fortunate to not have anything that has knocked me out of the game," Young said. "I'm a bigger guy so my body probably can take more than a guy with a smaller frame so that helps me out a lot."
Young holds down the fort on the right side of the line while Pro Bowl tackle Tony Boselli will be his counterpart on the left. When the Texans took the duo as their first two picks in the expansion draft, their message was loud and clear. The team wanted to form a solid foundation of players, the core being the offensive line. Young couldn't have been more pleased with the company he shared the stage with that weekend in February.
"There were such talented players on that list who were left unprotected," Young said that day. "To be second behind a future Hall of Famer (Boselli), it's unbelievable, you know."
Though Boselli gets much of the attention, Young is a strong force to be reckoned with. He has faced defensive powerhouses like Giants' defensive end Michael Strahan and Rams defensive end Leonard Little and held his own while protecting the pocket. Young has remained healthy and solid while serving sometimes as the stagnant tackling dummy for oncoming, ferocious defensive lineman and linebackers.
"You take a beating but it's like boxing," Young explained. "They stand in the ring and they're used to taking punches. After a while, you just adjust to taking licks. We use a lot of leverage so you can take some of the power off of guys charging you."
But Young takes the punishing role in stride.
"I've had one instance where someone tried to grab my arm at the bottom of the pile, I think he was trying to snap it," he said. "I've heard of guys getting poked in the eye and spit on, but normally in my experience, it's been fairly calm."
Young has adjusted to his new team with much ease. Once just a rookie himself, his experience has now landed him in a position where he is able to tutor his young counterparts in the style of blocking that offensive line coach Tony Marciano has implemented.
One thing is for sure though, when Young takes the field for his first game as a Texan, he will have been prepped by some of the league's premier defensemen. Facing off opposite of him are linebackers' Jamie Sharper, Kaliee Wong and defensive linemen Gary Walker and Seth Payne, an impressive gang to train against.
"Everyday I think they show us something new or different," Young said about the Texans defense. "They come from everywhere, they hit you with everybody so I think it's good for us."
The agenda was clear from the very beginning. A successful offense had to start with the line. With Young holding down the right side, the Texans can be sure they have the right man for the job.