FOOTBALL

Sushi, trash cans and a dollar bill: How Bryce Young's QB training began at age 5

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

The Youngs found the flyer at some park in Orange County, California, more than a decade and a half ago. Someone had left the piece of paper the size of an envelope on the family car.

The Youngs didn’t ignore it. Instead, they grabbed it, and not long after, Bryce Young’s quarterback development began.

The flyer advertised private football training, which was perfect. Young’s dad, Craig, had been looking for someone to work with his then 5-year-old son. Craig could tell Young had a knack for throwing a football, or really anything, and wanted to help him develop that. Craig was a former receiver and defensive back, though. He didn’t know much about throwing mechanics.

“I know how bad it is to teach somebody something the wrong way and try to re-teach it and re-adjust the habit,” Craig said. “I wanted to get him a coach.”

Many wouldn’t work with Young because of how young he was. Then Tim Arthurs said yes.

In his late 20s, the former Dayton and Slippery Rock quarterback had started a football training side hustle. He was looking for clients, which included leaving flyers on cars.  

Young became one of his earliest (and youngest) customers.

They worked together for about two years. Arthurs certainly isn't the only member of the extensive village that helped build Young into a Heisman-Trophy winner, but he was the first.

Arthurs helped Young go from a kid who could throw the ball to a kid who could play quarterback. His most significant contribution was that he gave Young a positive first training experience that encouraged the future Alabama quarterback to continue.

“He was cool to be around,” Young told The Tuscaloosa News. “It could have potentially been something that drove me away from the game or something that left a sour taste in my mouth if things had gone differently.”

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The drive to training alone could have left a sour taste. The Youngs lived in Pasadena, and Arthurs held workouts in Irvine.

“If you know anything about LA or Southern California, that’s a brutal hike,” said Arthurs, now a managing director, head of equity sales in Chicago.  

Young remembers sleeping in the car or playing his Nintendo DS to help pass the time. He also usually got a meal with his dad. Young’s love of sushi began on these trips.

The food wasn’t his main motivator, though. Young knew a fun way to expend energy awaited.  

“Alright, hop in the car, and we’re going to play football,” Young said.

But early on, he didn’t even touch a football.

“We knew if we built the athlete first, we could refine his game as a quarterback,” Arthurs said.

Tim Arthurs, Bryce Young's first QB trainer.

The drills ranged from hand-eye coordination with tennis balls to footwork on the ladder. Later, the football was introduced. Young vaguely knew how to hold it, so they worked on his grip.

They also drilled fundamentals. In the early days, Arthurs put a dollar bill in Young’s left pocket. Then Young would make the throwing motion, leading with his thumb down, across the body and into the left pocket. Over, and over and over. Sometimes without a football.

The drills became more advanced. There was one where Young had to keep his eyes downfield to call out numbers and letters he saw on cards.

Another drill included Young having to sprint to his left or escape the pocket. Trash cans would be used to simulate bodies. In another, Young had to drop back and go over obstacles in the pocket as Arthurs sent other coaches sprinting after the quarterback as if they were pass rushers. The other coaches working with Arthurs had recently played for Fresno State.

“Just imagine Bryce at age 6 with a grown man running a 4.4 at you,” Arthurs said. “I remember him being able to maneuver and understand the angles, which I thought was very impressive at that age.”  

Young started practicing with older kids, too. Sometimes, he even threw to the recent college players turned coaches.  

“I think I looked at it as there wasn’t any pressure,” Young said. “It was cool to be younger because it felt like it was OK to make mistakes. It was OK not to be right. All the people I ever remember being around were really nice. Everyone was really encouraging. It just made for a fun environment.”

Arthurs always strived to let the training go where Young would take it naturally. Based on where the young quarterback was, Arthurs would challenge and develop him. That helped combat any issues that could have arisen from Young’s age.

So why did Arthurs agree to work with a 5-year-old?

“The commitment,” Arthurs said. “He could have went to 100 different places. The fact that he wanted to make that commitment gave me the confidence that I was all in.”

So, too, was Young, and that’s been the case ever since.