Where are they now: Cornell Young III

Grace Murphy, features writer

Football was his only escape. His only way to get away from the gangs, the drugs, the life he did not want. He continued to fight, to work hard, to channel his emotions onto the field. He was used to footballs spiraling toward him, but bullets are a lot harder to catch. The night Cornell Young III, 1992 KHS graduate, was shot would continue to impact himself and the lives of others for generations.

When Young III was a junior at KHS, he said he was dealing drugs and wrapped up in neighborhood gang activity. When he was only 16, Young III was shot in the leg by a drive-by shooter. According to him, time slowed to a stop during this moment, and he began to reevaluate the circumstances by which he arrived to that street corner.

“[Getting shot] was life-altering,” Young III said. “At the moment when it happened, I thought I was going to die. I didn’t realize it was only my leg.”

After he was shot, Mike Wade, associate principal and KHS physical education teacher at the time, encouraged Young III to stay after school everyday to get back into shape. Wade said Young III had a lot of athletic and academic ability he did not want him to lose.

At the moment when it happened, I thought I was going to die.”

— Cornell Young III

“[At the time I didn’t] know why he was [getting me back into shape],” Young III said. “Now I know that his intentions were to make sure that I wasn’t going home and dealing with the same activities that got me shot in the first place.”

Young III said Wade persuaded him to play football his senior year, where he was able to redefine himself through his teammates, who offered him a safe, supportive environment. Football allowed Young III to find new perspectives in life, pay attention to the small things, and build character. After high school, Young III stayed in Kirkwood and became an electrician and heavy equipment operator.

“I am able to say that I am a person that keeps this community running,” Young III said. “I can point out things that I created and that I helped build. It is rewarding.”

According to Young III, he is thrilled that his three sons, Cornell Young IV, David Young and Travion Mosby, seniors, attend KHS. They moved to KSD last year so his sons could go to KHS, and they have learned more about their father’s legacy through Wade.

“I met Mr. Wade a couple of years before [high school] through my father,” Young IV said. “He is always a great guy, even now, he is a man I look up to.”

Young IV also plays football and said he began because of how much he used to play with his father when he was younger. Young III also taught his sons how to be the people they are today.

“My dad has impacted my life tremendously,” Young IV said. “Growing up he has always been my hero. I have always looked up to him, he introduced me to football, that is how we have a great bond. [If there is] anything going on, bad or good, anything I would go to him.”

Young III said he coached his son’s football team before they came to Kirkwood and that coaching them was his biggest joy. He stopped coaching after his sons came to KHS but has since been busy with work and family. According to Young III, he hopes his children continue to thrive at KHS, and encourages them to become better than he was in the past.

“Seeing how that moment getting shot changed his life moving forward,” Wade said. “Seeing how great his sons are here and seeing how solid they are as community members and citizens, and the sacrifices he made to get his sons into Kirkwood [impacted my life from being an educator in the district].”