"I put a lot of emphasis on the fact that I was going to miss these guys a lot," said the senior running back. "College football has done so much for me, really molded me into the man that I am today."
That change hasn't been easy for Young. When he committed to Illinois, they had just beaten Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Things appeared to be looking up. But Ron Zook was fired after Young's freshman season. In 2012, under first-year coach Tim Beckman, Young led the team in rushing and receptions - scoring four touchdowns. But his playing time was cut in half as a junior. He lost the starting job midway through the year to sophomore Josh Ferguson. Young thought about transferring, but he decided to stick it out.
"That's another thing that I talked about in my speech," he said. "It really woudn't have done my teammates or me justice if I left for any reason so that's why I'm here."
Those hard times have shaped Young's perspective. After back-to-back losing seasons, all the senior cares about now is winning games no matter what his role is.
"I just hope for the best, we're just going to keep working and hopefully we can get some results," he said.
Running backs coach Alex Golesh expects Young's playing time to increase this season.
They have even been working on plays where both Young and Ferguson are both on the field at the same time.
"I've always said that the success of our offense is going to depend big time on Donovonn," he said. "He's got to take a lot of carries off of Josh's shoulders. So if DY can carry a lot of the load as a true running back that will really, really expand our playbook."
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