Young grows in boxing, leadership

Iowa running back Toren Young has taken up a new hobby, and it could help him on the gridiron.

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Young grows in boxing, leadership

Iowa running back Toren Young speaks to the media during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Iowa running back Toren Young speaks to the media during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Toren Young speaks to the media during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Toren Young speaks to the media during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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CHICAGO — If you’re at a boxing gym in the Iowa City area and you see someone the size of a running back breaking a sweat, that person probably isn’t Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. But the person could be Hawkeye running back Toren Young.

Young has taken up boxing workouts with offensive-line teammate Alaric Jackson after Jackson told the running back he was going to get in some boxing work. Young tagged along, and he has felt the pain it brings.

“It’s just a different type of training,” Young said. “Boxing, it’s a lot of shorter bursts, and the conditioning tires you out real fast. It’s just something to do, some extra work. It’s a good stress-reliever. A lot of the core stuff they do is really good and beneficial for football.”

It makes sense. Young is a back who would rather break through the defensive line at the goal line than catch a 20-yard pass. That’s why the intense training seems to fits his style.

“[The workouts] are definitely not easy,” Young said. “You’ve just got to have a hard-nosed mindset about it because it burns. Those are hard workouts. It’s a lot different than any workouts we do in football, so [you need] the mindset that you’re going to go to work.”

Young has taken strides in his workouts, and he has also taken them in his leadership. Despite not being listed as the starter at running back, Young earned a trip to Big Ten media days as a junior, which isn’t a position head coach Kirk Ferentz gives to that class very often.

Young helped get the season off to a bang for Iowa in 2018, gaining 84 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries, including a 40-yard run in the third quarter to kick-start a dormant Hawkeye offense.

He finished the season with 637 yards and 5 scores on 136 carries.

“He has just been, to me, a stellar guy since he joined our program,” Ferentz said. “I think I’ve said publicly before that I think sometimes we underappreciate him … I think sometimes we devalue because he’s not a 4.3 [40-yard dash] guy or a 4.4 guy, and he’s not this or that. But he’s improved.”

His teammates have taken notice of his leadership as well. Despite losing the starting job last season and splitting carries with Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin, he has a hold on his team.

“He’s looked at as a leader, and being picked to this event, it’s apparent in the coaches that they trust him to say the right things and to represent part of the offense with Nate,” cornerback Michael Ojemudia said. “Being a back that has to share the load with Mekhi and Ivory, it’s definitely a testament to Toren’s commitments to the team.”

Iowa has goals this season. The Hawkeyes are one of the favorites to win the Big Ten West along with Nebraska. To take home a conference title, every player has to be on board. Young knows it’s about the team.

“It wasn’t about me,” he said. “I’d love to impact the team as much as I can and grow my role, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to embrace your role. We have a goal as a team, and our goal is to win a Big Ten championship.”