Never judge a book by its cover.
The saying has been passed down through generations, and it applies to one of UM’s breakout defensive backs – sophomore cornerback Malek Young.
Young has recorded a team-leading eight pass breakups to go along with two interceptions and 31 tackles this season.
“He’s a fearless competitor,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “Malek plays very confident. He feels like one of the top corners when he gets out there, and that’s what we instill in him every single week.”
That impression of the bold, assertive defender is what opponents see on the field. But what they don’t see is what Young does before the games even start.
“I threw up last game twice; I always do,” Young said about his experience during the Syracuse-Miami matchup Oct. 21. “At second kickoff, I played a possession already, but I had to throw up. I’m not nervous, I just feel like I have to get it out of me.”
After he gets sick, whether it be before or during games, Young feels better. It’s almost become a ritual for him.
“He vomits before every game,” Rumph said. “I think at Notre Dame last year, he threw up on coach Ephraim Banda’s shoe. And last game they said, ‘Malek just vomited,’ and he’ll do it and just say, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s just what I do.’”
Young is not the only one. Several storied football players have confirmed this happening to them as well, and for many of them, it was good luck.
“We were so superstitious that my offensive line would not leave the locker room until I threw up,” former UM quarterback Jim Kelly said in an interview with Dan Patrick. “But the times I didn’t think I needed to or it wasn’t one of those games where I was so pumped up – like if we had already clinched – the offensive line wouldn’t leave. So I went in there and pretended just to keep those guys happy.”
Rumph said former Miami linebacker Dan Morgan was the same way.
“So pregame, Dan would always be in the stall, and you’ll just hear somebody and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s Dan,’” Rumph said. “With some people, that’s just how they get rid of their anxiety. They let it out physically … From their stomachs.”
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley, former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb all threw up before games.
This calming mechanism allows Young to become that “fearless” defender on the field. But what makes him special despite his impressive 2017 campaign is that he refuses to settle for his current accomplishments.
“I feel like I can get better,” Young said. “I have some mental mistakes and some mental errors. I feel like I play OK, but the standard is set high here, and I just got to play toward it.”
“His nickname is ‘Humble Child,'” Rumph said. “He’s very humble, but as a corner, you have to mentally feel like you’re that guy, so he does.”