The University of Miami confirmed in a written release Sunday that starting cornerback Malek Young sustained a neck injury against Wisconsin during the Capital One Orange Bowl game and “will undergo career-ending surgery.’’
“After discussions with my family and the UM medical staff we have determined that my football career should come to an end,” Young said in a statement released by UM. “I look forward to getting healthy, working towards my degree and continuing to support my teammates, as I know they will continue to support me.”
The surgery will be performed by the UM medical team.
“While we’re disappointed that Malek’s football career is over, his health is our top priority,” coach Mark Richt said. “Malek is a terrific young man, one who I’m confident will go on to accomplish great things. He will remain on full scholarship and we will support him every step of the way.”
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Young, from Fort Lauderdale, was the first Hurricanes player to wear the coveted turnover chain. He wore the chain twice this season, as he had two interceptions, including one in UM’s huge home victory against Notre Dame.
He posted a tweet just after 9 p.m. Saturday that “God has [a] better plan.’’ The post was accompanied by praying hands.
Young went on to retweet several teammates, coaches and former players wishing him well, including defensive tackle Gerald Willis, who said, “You will be missed.” The well-wishers continued to pour out their hearts on Sunday, as did Young.
Young, a true sophomore this past season, was injured in the first quarter against the Badgers. He left the field to go to the locker room and never returned.
Despite being only 5-9 and 180 pounds, Young, out of Coconut Creek High, was an exceptional talent. He played in 12 games as a true freshman and started the last three. Despite his smaller physique, he smothered receivers.
“He’s a fearless competitor,’’ UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said of Young in late October. “He has tremendous ball skills, but the main thing is Malek plays very confident. He kind of feels like he’s one of the top corners when he gets out there.’’
Rumph said Young had “great feet’’ and was an adept tackler. “Now I’m not out there thinking, ‘Is Malek going to knock the ball out?’ I want Malek to pick the ball off.’’
This past season, Young played in all 13 games, starting 10. He had 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, the two interceptions and a team-high eight pass breakups.
His career numbers in 19 games: three interceptions, 65 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, eight passes defended.
Despite Young’s confidence, he got nauseated at the beginning of games. “I threw up last game twice,’’ he said after the victory against Syracuse. “I don’t know why. I don’t feel nervous.’’
Said Rumph: “He’ll be like, ‘Don’t worry. It’s just what I do.’’’
Rumph said he became emotional when Young signed with the Hurricanes in February 2016 because he was so overjoyed about adding him to the Canes’ program.
On Saturday night, Rumph tweeted: “One of the most talented but humble players I have coached.’’
UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz also posted his own tweet under Young’s: “God has the best plan, even when we don't understand His ways or His timing. You are a great warrior and a true Cane...and there can only be one first...you'll always be the first to rock the chain!”
The loss of Young and the graduation of senior cornerback Dee Delaney leaves UM with three returning corners: soon-to-be senior Michael Jackson, soon-to-be sophomore Trajan Bandy and senior-to-be Jhavonte Dean.
Last month, UM signed four-star cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and Gilbert Frierson and three-star corner D.J. Ivey. UM is pursuing Plantation American Heritage four-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, but has serious competition.
UM is considered a long shot to land Plantation American Heritage’s Patrick Surtain Jr., who is rated the nation’s top cornerback prospect.
Starting safety Sheldrick Redwine also has considerable experience playing cornerback, as he was converted to safety last spring.
Young’s former high school coach Kareem Reid tweeted: “Sick to my stomach for you but the man up top doesn’t make mistakes. Thank you for allowing me to coach you & believing in the vision. You’re a special kid & will do great things. Always here for you if you need me. Love you kid!”
Young is the second prominent South Florida football player whose career was curtailed in the past year by a neck injury. Miami Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus sustained a career-ending neck injury in a game in December 2016.