It started as nothing more than a simple suggestion prior to seeing a Philadelphia Eagles’ game. Just a whim. Nothing more.
A friend’s brother still had his old high school shoulder pads in the back shed, Shaun Young was told before leaving to watch the Eagles host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Veterans Stadium in the famous Ricky Watters’ “For-Who, For-What” game in 1995. Young already had his face painted in Eagles silver and green, why not pop on the pads? It was something a little different.
Something a little different turned into a brand that’s led Young, a 1986 graduate, onto the pages of Sports Illustrated, placed him prominently on ESPN broadcasts, garnered him at least a half-dozen TV commercials and has people coming up to him to see the “ultimate Eagles’ fan,” padded and painted up in his Eagles regalia, and ask to take a picture with him.
In 2009, Young became a member of the Professional Football’s Ultimate Fan Association (PFUFA); He appeared on the 12th Man float during the parade of NFL Hall of Fame induction weekend in Canton, Ohio.
All of this still blows away Young, who, when he’s not yelling and screaming for the Eagles, is actually a very laid-back, approachable, genial guy who’s been a solid employee the past nine years for the Springfield Township public works department. He just has a pretty neat side hobby that’s led him to know Eagles’ players and Eagles’ coach Andy Reid on a first-name basis.
“It is a lot of fun,” Young said. “I was just this goofball showing up with his face painted and shoulder pads on at Eagles’ games. I got some fun compliments about it, some people would pound the pads and it’s something I’ve worn since 1995. It was obviously a little different, to say the least. But I get all jacked up for home games anyway. I loved it.”
What truly launched Young to a different strata was the 1999 draft, when the Eagles chose Donovan McNabb. Young was one of the more vocal leaders of a promotion put together by WIP 610AM, calling themselves “The Dirty 30” and demanding the Eagles draft Texas running back Ricky Williams. The scene at Madison Square Garden that day is still indelible in the memories of Eagles’ fans, as a tsunami of boos came pelting down on McNabb by the Dirty 30 when his name was announced.
“It’s something I regretted,” said Young, whose ties with the WIP morning show were severed last October, not by his choice, when he refused to go along with another round of boos when McNabb and his new team, the Washington Redskins, visited Lincoln Financial Field last season.
“I already apologized to Donovan and his family a few months after the 1999 draft. Cecil Martin [a former Eagle] brought Donovan and his teammates into a Philadelphia old-city bar, where I got a chance to speak with Donovan for about 10, 15 minutes, just me and him, one-on-one. I explained how sorry I was for doing it.
“But it was pretty crazy. I was jumped on by media from everywhere from here to Japan. One of the members of the Japanese crew was too afraid to come near me because I reminded him of Godzilla. A lot of people thought I was wacked out. I was so animated and boisterous that veins would pop out of my head. But it is funny, once people get to know who I am, they’re surprised. I have my head on straight.”
He’s very sincere when he goes into Eagles’ rage mode. That’s not an act. His love for the Eagles is heartfelt and genuine. His character is more a cross between pro wrestling and a cartoon persona.
“This has taken off far beyond anything I could have imagined,” Young admits. “You can’t plan something like this. This is 16 years now and it was silly to do; it wasn’t even my idea, it was my buddy’s brother’s idea. Look what it’s turned into. But it has been a lot of fun and I really enjoy it. People used to see me and wonder ‘Who the hell is this dude?’ Now people come up and want pictures with me.”
One time at an Eagles’ game in Washington, Young was sitting among people from the Eagles, enjoying some food at halftime, when someone with a friend wanted to take a picture with him. Young turned around to see it was former Eagle Dennis Franks with his buddy, Vince Papale.