CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers believe they’ve finally found their franchise quarterback.
The Panthers selected Alabama’s Bryce Young 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.
He becomes the first Alabama player selected No. 1 overall since Harry Gilmer in 1948.
“It’s a dream come true,” Young said. “I’m blessed. I want to thank God for allowing me to be here.’’
At a rainy, draft night party at Bank of America Stadium, Panthers owner David Tepper was asked in front of fans what the addition of Young means to the organization.
He replied, “What I want to say — Super Bowls.”
Tepper’s wife, Nicole, added, “We have our guy.”
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 Trophy 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.”
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 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.
“I’m myself, I know who I am, I’m confident in my abilities,” Young told a group of reporters at an NFL Play 60 function Wednesday. “For me, I don’t know how to play the game another way. I’ve been this size relative to the people around me for my entire life. … I can’t grow. I can’t get any taller.”
It’s crucial that the Panthers hit on Young.
General manager Scott Fitterer sent four draft picks — including two first-rounders — and wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears last month in a blockbuster deal that allowed the Panthers to move up eight spots and have their choice of quarterbacks. Carolina also considered Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
The Panthers hope Young brings stability to a position that has been in flux since 2017, the previous 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 David 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.
It’s unclear if Young will start right away.
Reich said prior to the draft that the decision to start a rookie quarterback would largely depend on how fast he develops and gets a grasp of the system. The Panthers signed veteran Andy Dalton as a stop-gap until Young is ready.
“We have a great coaching staff,” Reich said. “… That is what it takes. At the end of the day, this day is about the players but we are proud of this coaching staff.”