Why a rural Louisiana athlete will be the last to wear Jackie Robinson’s #42

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EDGARD, La. (WGNO) - The spotlight is a surprisingly comfortable place for linebacker Kenny Young. Hailing from Edgard, Louisiana, population 2,600, he's already leaving his mark on a school with population 43,000, in a city of 16,000,000.

Maybe it's not surprising, after all.

The John Curtis graduate only lost 2 games in high school, won 3 state championships and bagged a national title.

His outstanding performance led him not cross-state to LSU, but cross-country to UCLA! 

He says, "I don't take wearing this jersey for granted. I come to work every day, I work hard academically and on the football field."

75-years-ago, a young Jackie Robinson also played football at UCLA, along with basketball, track and of course, baseball.

In 1947, Robinson claimed his place in history, shattering the color barrier and suiting up in number 42. Despite enduring harassment and even death threats, Robinson earned rookie of the year.

Growing up around the working plantations in Edgard, Young's grandmother shared similar struggles from her own youth.

"She always told me about the experiences she had going to school and being called this and being called that," Young said.

But instead of anger, Young remembers her hope for the future.

"You know, I see light at the end of the tunnel," she told him. "I said, what do you mean, Grandma? She was like, I know that eventually this is going to be over with and kids like you and your generation is going to change that."

This young linebacker is doing just that.

UCLA is retiring Robinson's iconic #42 across all sports. Young will be the last player to ever wear it.

It's an honor Young doesn't take lightly.

A challenge to keep breaking barriers, like the great Jackie Robinson before him.

"That's my drive, honestly, to do things in my family that never was done, to break chains and to inspire the younger generations and my kids to do better than I'm doing," Young said.

From rural Louisiana to the shining lights of Los Angeles, Young's tackling that challenge head-on.

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