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Thursday September 19, 2013Big Man on Campus: Patric Young has Embraced his Entire Experience at Florida as He Prepares for his Senior Year

Gainesville, Fla.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- You know him as the body to end all bodies that races up and down the basketball court.

But you may also have seen University of Florida center Patric Young on GatorVision or YouTube lately taking a fun crack at some other sports. Or if you’re a UF student, this giant of a man may have stuck a microphone in your face outside the Reitz Union and asked you a trivia question.

Young is a senior telecommunications major in the College of Journalism and he’s already thinking beyond the time his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame no longer can race from baseline to baseline. His engaging personality and infectious smile come off well on camera as evidenced by Young’s “Big Man on Campus” random interviews and the “Patric Versus” series which pits him with against Gator athletes from other sports.

“I’m having a lot of fun with all that stuff,” Young said.

He’s having a lot of fun, period.

Young is enjoying the kind of textbook -- if not Utopian -- experience that most student-athletes (and their parents) hope for when embarking on the high school-to-college chapter of their lives. Not only is Young a star athlete at a marquee institution, he’s also a decorated student (the Southeastern Conference’s two-time Scholar-Athlete of the Year), one of the University Athletic Association’s most active participants in community relation functions and a fixture cheering at games supporting his fellow Gator athletes.

His passion for the Gators may have started back in the mid-1990s, when as a young boy he attended a Florida-Vanderbilt football game. He sat with his grandparents in the south end zone and caught an extra point after UF scored a touchdown. The young Young then chucked the ball down from the stands and got pats on the back from neighboring fans for his accuracy and arm.

He was hooked after that.

“Orange and blue, through and through,” Young said.

Now, years later, Young is in the final year of the kind of all-around, wide-ranging collegiate adventure those who wear the colors should strive for.

Check him out Saturday when the UF basketball team signs autographs at Verizon FanFest before the Florida-Tennessee football game (2:15-3 p.m.). Young will be the really big one embracing all the interaction.

The status basketball star and role model -- and all that comes with it -- means something to him.

“Within a system and during an age when the student-athlete experience is far closer to an ideal than a reality, Patric embodies the term ‘student-athlete’ in its purest sense,” said Mark Daigneault, assistant to the head coach for the men’s basketball program. “He has matured since his first year here. He has embraced the growth and development that is a byproduct of being in four years of college.”

He’s one of UF's poster child Gators.

“The way I look at it, you’re representing the whole school,” Young said. “That covers a lot of ground, so I think it’s important to represent it on different levels.”

Last week, ESPN personality Holly Rowe came to UF and hosted a series of media training seminars for Gators teams and their student-athletes. Among her topics was individual branding and how an athlete’s personality (and earning potential down the line) is projected not only in interview situations, but via social media. She spoke of how a simple Tweet or Instagram shot can mushroom into a public relations crisis. Or worse, cost that individual opportunities in the future.

A scan of Young’s popular Twitter feed -- @bigpatyoung4 -- likely will turn up a motivational quote, something nice or playful directed at his teammates or a reminder to head out to volleyball, lacrosse, etc., to support the Gators..

“I’m a part of the University of Florida, so that’s always going to be a part of me,” Young said. “As I go on in life and build my image I want it to be one that professionals -- teams, companies, sponsors -- will respect. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I want to come off as a guy who has a good personality, high work ethic and morals. Someone of character and faith. Someone who doesn’t just talk about those things, but lives them.”

He smiled.

“But not someone who’s too serious.”

Check out “Big Man on Campus” or “Patric Versus” for that. No one will mistake him for being too serious.

Young seems very natural, very comfortable on camera. While enormous, he’s also very disarming, which is part of his charm. He knows how to play to a crowd, which happens to be something he does very well between the lines at the O’Connell Center.

And then there are his achievements, both on and off the court, which make him an ideal ambassador for the UF student-athlete experience.

“Pat is the kind of guy you would want your daughter to marry,” said UF senior wide receiver Trey Burton, who first met Young at a Bible study meeting their freshman year. “I think he will leave here and go on and do what whatever he puts his mind to. We all know he’s going to play in the NBA, but after that, it’s the head on his shoulders that will take him down whatever path he chooses; whatever path God has planned for him. I’m going to enjoy watching it.”

For the time being, Young has his sights set on making his senior season his best one on the basketball court.

Young needs 122 points to join UF’s 1,000-point club and 246 rebounds to enter the program’s all-time top 10 in that category. He has helped the Gators to three straight Elite Eights and emerged as one of the best low-post defenders in the country, but now he wants to be a key cog that pushes the program over that hump and to a Final Four.

As motivation to get there, he’s taking a very critical approach into the 2013-14 season, with practice set to start in early October.

“I just need to finally step up and be that leader with my play. Not disappearing in games,” he said. “I know that’s something people have said about me. And I know that basketball is not always about stats, but I need to be an 8-9 rebound per-game guy. I need to be a go-to-guy on the offensive end. I need to be the guy Coach Donovan believes I can be. I have to be the guy my teammates believe I can be. I'm not going to put pressure and expectation on myself. I want to be able to go out there and have fun and be free. But all those are things I just know I’m capable of doing. I want to be able to achieve those things. If I don't achieve them, as long as I know I gave my all I really can’t ask for anything more."

He wasn’t done.

Young acknowledged it’s easy to talk about such things and it’s altogether different to make good on such words.

“I think these first three years really put me through the process of maturing and understanding what it takes to be great. What it truly takes,” Young said. “You can’t talk about it, can’t think about it or dream about it. You’ve got to get up and do the work. It is literally an every-single day thing. You have to defeat human nature. I’ve had so many of my former coaches, some from high school and AAU that I interact with, they've told me that this is my year. This is the time to leave it on the court. There's nothing to hold back."

Coming soon: “Patric Versus Expectations.”

He’s slam-dunked a bunch already.


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