MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Donnie Young, who spent more than 40 years working with the West Virginia football program in a variety of capacities, died on Tuesday, family members announced on social media. Young was battling Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Clendenin, W.Va. native worked for the Mountaineers from 1970-2012, starting his career under Bobby Bowden and continuing in a variety of roles until he retired during Dana Holgorsen’s tenure.
Young coached the West Virginia freshman team in 1970, the penultimate season before freshmen were allowed to play at the varsity level. Bowden promoted him to linebackers coach in 1971, and Young stayed on through Frank Cignetti’s tenure, including a year as defensive coordinator in 1977.
Young was one of the few coaches retained when Don Nehlen took over the program in 1980, continuing in the role of recruiting coordinator that he held for Cignetti’s final two seasons at WVU.
Nehlen kept Young on the recommendation of Gary Tranquill, who he had previously worked with and also kept on WVU’s staff.
“We took over in December, and I said ‘How about being recruiting coordinator for a month or two and we’ll see what happens?'” Nehlen recalled Tuesday on MetroNews Sportsline.
It was in that capacity that Young helped put together some of the finest teams in program history, including the 1988 squad that played Notre Dame for the national championship.
“He was as good an evaluator of talent as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Nehlen said. “Early on here, we couldn’t recruit anybody. It was murder. But Donnie would find a kid and say ‘If we give him a year in the weight room, he’ll be special.’
“He found a lot of guys in the bushes.”
Young returned to an on-field coaching role as linebackers coach in 1993, and showed he hadn’t forgotten much. In 1996, linebacker Canute Curtis earned consensus All-America honors. Young served in the recruiting coordinator/linebackers coach role until Nehlen’s retirement in 2000.
He still proved useful to the program under Rich Rodriguez, serving as the WVU Varsity Club Coordinator and executive assistant for high school and alumni relations. When Bill Stewart took over in 2007, Young was named assistant to the head coach. He spent a year as a program assistant to Holgorsen before retiring in June 2012.
Thoughts and prayers to the family of Donnie Young. He was a great Mountaineer and friend to all of us with West Virginia Football.
— Rich Rodriguez (@RealCoachRod) April 7, 2020
Young was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Young’s career as a Mountaineer began as a player in 1962, when his 5-foot-10, 196-pound frame was big enough to get by as a starting interior defensive lineman.
After completing his playing career, Young spent four years at Salem University, including the final three as head coach. He had a 19-6-1 record before Bowden hired him to coach the WVU freshmen.