Little things help make Bryce Young top overall pick

The Panthers choose the Alabama quarterback first in last week’s NFL Draft

Bryce Young poses with Panthers fans after being selected first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft last Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri. (Tyler Kaufman / AP Images for NFL)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When he showed up for his first press conference after being chosen first overall by the Panthers in the 2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young had one question.

While walking toward the podium at the front of the room, he whispered to the media sitting in the rows in front, “Who went No. 6?”

He was told that Ohio State lineman Paris Johnson went off the board to the Arizona Cardinals, and he nodded approvingly. Then he stepped on stage to talk about the biggest day in his career so far.

After finishing his press conference, Young walked out into the hall at Kansas City’s Union Station and happened to run into Johnson, waiting for his turn at the podium. He hugged the sixth overall pick and congratulated him warmly.

They were two brief snippets — about 30 seconds out of a busy, overwhelming night filled with media duties and emotion for the Panthers quarterback of the future. Amidst the whirlwind, however, Young was still able to display the characteristics that helped earn him the spot atop the draft. Those brief exchanges might as well have been a “TED Talk” on leadership.

Do your homework, see the whole field, look out for the people around you.

Young also took time to praise C.J. Stroud, a fellow quarterback who was a strong candidate for the No. 1 pick and was taken second overall.

“C.J.’s my brother,” he said. “To hear him get selected was amazing. We all know the player he is, but I know the person he is as well. Regardless of all the football stuff, that’s my brother, and to be able to go through the process with him and be able to experience it together was huge.”

Young also praised the Alabama quarterbacks who have preceded him in the NFL Draft, from Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones, being sure to also mention Jalen Hurts, who transferred out on his way to NFL stardom.

They aren’t the things that jump off the film when evaluating quarterback prospects. They’re just little things, easy to miss on a night when, as fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson said, “I didn’t realize it was this long,”

The fact that Young didn’t miss them is a very good sign for the Panthers. How often, after a loss, have dejected players stood in front of their lockers and said that the team needs to just focus on getting the little things right?

Why keep tabs on a lineman going to another team five picks after you? Because you might bump into him in the hallway in a little while. Why take the time to mention other quarterbacks like Stroud and Tagovailoa? Perhaps because the Texans, who drafted Stroud, and Miami, where Tagovailoa calls home, are on the Panthers’ schedule this year. And the key to the two draft night moments is that they were second nature to Young, not something he had to be sure to remember to do.

“The quarterback we are getting has been a winner forever,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said. “This guy is a winner. He has been a winner on the field, but he wins off the field as well. He’s our kind of guy. Make no mistake about it, we got the best quarterback in college football.”

They’re also getting a quarterback who took time to study the tendencies of his potential future coach while going through the draft process.

“I’ve been able to talk with him about the system and his philosophy,” Young said of Reich. “I think it was something really useful to me and was really great to learn about — doing a little bit of research on his background, where he comes from and then hearing it from him what he looks for the quarterback position, what they want their identity to be and everything. It was great to be able to learn from him in the small time that I had, and I’m super excited to continue to learn and grow underneath him.”

The draft process has grown into its own industry — a three-month circus of preparation, rumors and speculation. And Young was able to keep a cool head, the ringmaster at the center of the three rings.

“I never knew where I was going,” he said. “I never tried to measure anything up. I knew how Draft Day was. Nothing is promised. I didn’t try to keep up with what was in progress. I just tried to control what I could control. … I always knew God would direct me to the right place. I didn’t know. I didn’t have any confirmation. I didn’t look super deep into it.”

Now the weight of the franchise falls squarely on the rookie’s shoulders. If anyone is up to the task, it appears to be Bryce Young.

“Pressure is an opportunity,” he said. “It’s fun to be in those situations. That’s what we all dream of.”