Former Olympian and ACU alumnus Earl Young was back on campus 50 years after he became the youngest track athlete ever to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
“It was a great honor to have him on campus,” athletic director Jared Mosely said.
Young, who spoke in Chapel in Moody Coliseum on Wednesday, was part of the 4×400 American relay team that captured the gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy.
“It still hard to imagine it was really 50 years ago,” Young said.
Young was recruited to ACU by former head coach Oliver Jackson in the late 1950s. Until Jackson showed up in California to meet with Young and his father, Young had never thought about attending ACU. But that all changed when Jackson flew out to California with former ACU Wildcat and three-time gold medal winner Bobby Morrow.
“They called my dad and we had lunch together,” Young said. “He had never seen me run. I am not sure what he saw, but I’m glad he saw it.”
As it turns out, Young was getting some help without evening knowing it. Three months after arriving on campus, he learned his grandmother had sent a letter to Jackson without his knowing about it.
“She said she had a grandson who had been raised Church of Christ who was a pretty good track hand, and would he consider me for the track team,” Young said.
His grandmother was right. Young grew nearly four inches after coming to ACU and started to develop the physic of a track star. Even as a freshman, though, there was no talk of Young even competing in the Olympic Trials.
“As a freshman I would run about a 49.6 400,” Young said. “But my sophomore year I was running a 46.6 400.”
Those three seconds he shaved during that year helped Jackson make the decision to get Young ready for the Olympic Trials. His top-four finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Palo Alto, Calif., earned him a spot on the United States Olympic team.
Then he made his trip to Rome.
“It was overwhelming, and awesome,” Young said. “The athletes that were there participating with me, a great number of them had been at the previous Olympics.”
Young can recount the day of the race like it had happened yesterday. A number of his supporters attended the Olympics, including Jackson, his coach.
The race began, and the United States team jumped out to an early lead. Young took the baton from teammate Jack Yerman and began his leg of the race, maintaining the U.S. lead with the German runner closing the distance.
“And I know this sounds crazy with a stadium of 100,000 people, but I heard Coach Jackson’s shrill whistle from the stands,” Young said. “And that was, “Get your backside in gear Earl.'”
Young held the U.S. lead, and Otis and Glenn Davis finished off the Germans as the U.S. team set a new record with a time of 3:02:37.
Since then, Young has taken the things God has done in his life and put them to practice by telling his story on numerous occasions.
In Chapel, Young spoke about the importance of seeing God as an active part of your life and recognizing the plan he has a plan for your life – no matter how much you stray.
“You can see later on in life where he kept you out of trouble and had a positive effect on you,” Young said.
After Young’s presentation, Dr. Phil Schubert presented him with an award commemorating his gold medal win 50 years ago.
“It has been a great honor and a great treat for me to come back to this university,” Young said.