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Bryce Young goes No. 1 to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers are desperate to win some Super Bowls, and owner David Tepper believes Bryce Young is the best man to help them reach that goal.

The Panthers selected the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Alabama with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, the first time the team has selected a QB with the top overall pick since Cam Newton in 2011.

Newton got the Panthers close in 2015, but couldn’t close the deal as Carolina lost to Denver 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.

At a rain-drenched draft night party on the field at Bank of America Stadium, Tepper was asked in front of thousands of fans what the addition of Young means to the organization. He replied succinctly, “What I want to say — Super Bowls.”

Tepper made sure that was plural.

Later, Tepper doubled down, with the multibillionaire hedge fund owner who deals in probabilities and trades on a daily basis saying in a news conference “there is no sure thing here, but it’s a probability sort of (thing). And we thought he has the best probability of winning Super Bowls.”

Young knows there will be pressure on him to win, but that doesn’t seem to faze him.

“Whenever there’s a pressure situation, I look at that as an opportunity,” Young said when asked about Tepper’s comments. “It’s fun to be in those situations. That’s what we all dream of.”

Young was 30-4 as a starter during three seasons with the Crimson Tide, throwing for 8,356 yards with 80 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. He won the Heisman in 2021 after tossing 47 TD passes and helping Alabama go 13-2 and reach the College Football Playoff national championship game.

“The quarterback we are getting has been a winner forever,” coach Frank Reich said. “This guy is a winner. He has been a winner on the field, but he wins off the field as well. He’s our kind of guy. Make no mistake about it, we got the best quarterback in college football right here in this stadium.”

General manager Scott Fitterer said his staff had convictions about Young ever since a draft meeting in February, shortly after Reich came on board as head coach.

Those feelings were so strong the team traded up eight spots in March to get to No. 1, parting ways with four draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore as part of a blockbuster deal with the Chicago Bears. At the time, the Panthers were concerned the Las Vegas Raiders might try to move up to No. 1.

The 5-foot-10, 204-pound Young is considered small by NFL standards, and is just the third quarterback since the merger shorter than 6 feet to be selected in the first round, joining Kyler Murray and Johnny Manziel.

But the Panthers have repeatedly said they don’t have any reservations about his stature, noting he only had two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last season.

“Those that doubt me, they are entitled to their opinion,” Young said. “I think that is the beauty of sports, we all come together and have argument on who you think is good or not. I choose to focus on what I can control. Put my energy into that and whatever external factors it may be positive or negative, that is stuff I can’t control. I choose to focus on being better day in and day out.”

The Panthers hope Young brings stability to a position that has been in flux since 2017, the last time the franchise reached the postseason.

Carolina has tried several options under center, including trading for Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, signing free agent Teddy Bridgewater and drafting Matt Corral in the third round last year.

They even brought back Newton for a second stint and considered Deshaun Watson before he wound up with the Cleveland Browns.

But nothing has worked.

The Panthers are just 29-53 over the past five seasons and have yet to make the postseason since Tepper purchased the team for a then-NFL record $2.3 billion in 2018, leaving the league’s second-wealthiest owner craving a playoff contender.

Young has shown he can win games and comes to Carolina with a reputation for being a high-IQ quarterback who excels at making fast decisions. Young has mostly succeeded as a pocket passer, but can also make plays on the run.

Reich said it’s unclear whether Young will start right away, adding “he has to earn it.”

The Panthers signed veteran Andy Dalton as a stop-gap until Young is ready.

But at least for one night, the Panthers were reveling in the idea they may have finally found their franchise quarterback.

“He’s a guy that checks all of the boxes,” Fitterer said.

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