Never mind that T.O. last laced ’em up for the Moccasins in 1995, or that his tumultuous 15-year NFL career ended five years ago. His picture is still everywhere in UTC’s football facility, his presence still keenly felt.
“It’s always at the back of your mind,” said Young, a redshirt freshman. “It’s like, hey, this guy had plenty of success here. Coach (Russ Huesman, a former UTC defensive back) always says that’s his recruiting thing: ‘I remember when I was here. It’s like, who’s next?’ ”
Added Board, a redshirt junior: “It shows that even though you’re out of a DI-AA (FCS) school, you still have a chance of making it to the next level. … It gives us motivation.”
So yes, Board and Young both aspire to be the next T.O. But that’s far from their sole focus, far from the only thing they hope to accomplish during their time on campus.
Board, an All-Southern Conference second-teamer last season, is majoring in civil engineering. Young plans to major in electrical engineering. Both are Dean’s List students, and both have thought about what they might want to do when their playing careers end.
Board would like to get into stadium design, and while Young is still forming a long-term plan, his current thought is that he wouldn’t mind working for a company like Apple, Inc.
“I guess that could be a dream job,” he said.
The focus for both players at present is on Saturday’s visit to Samford at 3:30 p.m. ET on ASN. The Mocs, No. 10 in the STATS FCS Top 25 and No. 12 in the FCS Coaches Poll, are 1-1, with a 23-20 loss to No. 1 Jacksonville State in their opener and a 44-34 victory last week over Mars Hill.
Samford (2-0) has outscored opponents 103-37.
“They are a really good team,” said Board, who has four receptions to date. “The defense runs well. They’ve got threats on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a tough one for us.”
Then again, neither Board nor Young (two catches) are averse to challenges; both said that’s why they are geared toward majors such as theirs.
Both are also from families that emphasize academics. Young, a native of Mobile, Ala., said his parents, Paul and Lisa, have “stayed on me since I was a kid. Good grades and academics have always been the first priority in everything I’ve done, and sports comes second.”
Same for Board, who hails from Clarksville, Tenn., and his parents, Calvin and Penni.
“Especially my mom,” C.J. said. “My mom was big on academics. She made sure that I excelled in school, and if I didn’t, she would let me know.”
Board also followed the example of Tommy Hudson, a wide receiver for the Mocs through last season and a fellow engineering major.
“Really I’ve just used what I’ve learned from him, and I’ve tried to pass that down to the guys younger than me,” Board said. “You know, lead by example and not just say the right things but also try to do the right things, too.”
The biggest lesson involves time management.
“I just told (Young) there are going to be times you’ve got practice and you’re not going to feel like doing the work that’s due the next morning, but you have to do it,” Board said. “It’s all a time-organization thing and having the drive to want to do the work.”
And a matter of keeping not only one’s T.O.-inspired dreams in mind, but also one’s goals.