Rams' Brian Young rises above two No. 1's

Saturday, December 1, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Rams drafted two defensive tackles in the first round in April, the situation looked iffy for Brian Young.

Now, it's Young who's still standing.

Young, a fifth-round pick last year, split time with Damione Lewis, the 12th overall pick this year, most of the year before Lewis was lost with a broken foot two weeks ago. But Young has been the starter all year, and that again will be the case Sunday at Atlanta.

He's coming off perhaps his best game, getting 10 tackles and an interception in the Rams' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He made back-to-back tackles on the Bucs' opening drive, forcing them to go three-and-out, and returned the interception 25 yards to give the Rams a late chance to tie the game.

"He was just extraordinary," coach Mike Martz said.

Young, who has four sacks, said he didn't mind when the Rams took Lewis and then Ryan Pickett with the 29th overall pick of the first round. After all, he had a season under his belt.

"I've always been the type of person that 'This is my position, this is what I do, you've got to beat me out if you want to take this spot,"' Young said. "That's just the way I came to look at it. I wasn't worried about them bringing in two first-round draft picks."

He didn't pay attention to the progress of Lewis or Pickett in camp, either.

"You can't control anything he does," Young said. "All you can do is control what you do, in everything in life."

Young figured he'd split time with Lewis, based on his experience as a rookie.

"Your first year is hard in this league, it really is," Young said. "You've got to get adjusted to it, and it takes a while."

Young recalls his first impression against the Saints and it wasn't pretty: "They're strong, they're big, they're killing me."

Not anymore. Young is a lot stronger than last season, putting on 10 pounds to 285, and has refined his technique.

"In college he was such a strong individual that he could take offensive linemen and throw them around a little bit," Martz said. "That doesn't work here and he's finding that out.

"He's vastly improved and really understands how to play the position."

Young actually bulked up to nearly 300 pounds for a time, under team orders. It wasn't difficult.

"Trust me, it was all beer and Burger King and McDonald's," Young said.

He shed the extra pounds before training camp when the team changed its mind and wanted more mobility. That came in handy on his first interception since high school.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Young said. "I was just trying to hold onto the ball and make sure I didn't give it back."

NOTES: The Rams have won four in a row against the Falcons and Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk have put up some big numbers. Warner has 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions and Faulk has 572 yards rushing and 195 receiving. ... Cornerback Aeneas Williams will be making his 168th consecutive start. ... The Rams need one more victory to give them three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1983-86, when they had a run of four in a row. ... The Rams have won six straight on the road dating to last year. That's one victory shy of tying the franchise record.

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