CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bryce Young arrived early for his first NFL practice, then put on a show for his new coaches.
The No. 1 overall pick from Alabama made a great first impression at Friday’s rookie minicamp, wowing coach Frank Reich and others with a series of on-target throws while showing poise in the pocket and good decision-making skills.
“I don’t want to overdo it on the first day, but he did every little thing right,” Reich said. “The little throws out in the flat, the little bubble screen stuff, the deep over (the top) throws, throws in the flat. … He just threw it with accuracy, saw (the field) well and knew where guys were supposed to be.
Reich said Young showed “complete command” of the offense.
After being selected ahead of childhood friend C.J. Stroud from Ohio State in the draft, Young said he was eager to get on the field and prove himself.
Young arrived at the practice field nearly an hour before the listed start time, and well before most of the media had arrived to snap a picture or grab a video of him arriving in his No. 9 jersey.
Young’s objective was to send a message on what he called “a huge day.”
“I wanted to set a tone,” Young said. “I was just here trying to get stuff down like we all were. In this rookie minicamp we have talked about the themes of the team, and one of them is making sure we are prepared. I think we all want to make the best first impression that we can.”
Several of Young’s completions during the non-padded practice went to Jonathan Mingo, the team’s second-round draft pick from Mississippi — a connection the Panthers hope will turn out to be special for years to come.
“I’ve been on the opposite side of Bryce for the last two years (in college) and I’m 0-2 against him, so it’s a blessing to finally be on his side,” Mingo said. “We have to keep building our chemistry and help the team win. Just keep practicing, Practicing makes us better. He’s making me better and I’m making him better.”
Between plays, Young received coaching from longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown, the team’s new QBs coach. Mingo took some advice from former Panthers wide receiver and NFL analyst Steve Smith, who stopped by to see the rookies.
Mingo said he was impressed with Young’s presence in the huddle, which included serious moments and others where they joked around and enjoyed the music being pumped in through speakers on the sidelines.
“He doesn’t think too much,” Mingo said. “He just goes out and has fun.”
Carolina has a lot invested in Young after trading away four draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore to move up to the No. 1 overall pick.
Panthers owner David Tepper said he’s counting on Young to lead the franchise to multiple Super Bowl titles after five seasons in which the team hasn’t found a long-term answer at quarterback.
The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since 2017, the year before Tepper bought the team.
While questions will continue to linger about Young’s 5-foot-10, 204-pound stature until he can prove he’s tall enough and strong enough to play in the NFL, the early impressions he made Friday were all positive.
“He threw the ball exceedingly well,” Reich added. “You can tell he was in a good space mentally. He really had a firm grasp on everything we asked.”
Young made sure he was prepared coming in, not just by studying the playbook.
He’s spent months taking in advice from all sorts of people at the NFL level, both current and former, about how best to transition to the league. That included several talks with former Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones, now with the New England Patriots.
Young said Jones has been “super gracious” talking to him about a number of issues.
“I want to do everything I can to set myself up to be successful and to help the franchise,” Young said. “A lot of people have helped me. I’m going to keep leaning on the people who have had success and been doing it longer than I have.”