Before the Panthers drafted Bryce Young first overall this April, CBS Sports analyst and former NFL general manager Rick Spielman couldn't help but compare the 21-year-old quarterback to a certain NBA legend. Young might be historically small for his position, Spielman argued, but his "natural feel" for the game lends itself to effortlessly clutch poise, not so unlike Golden State Warriors icon Stephen Curry.
On the surface, the comp may have been just as idealistic as suggesting Young, who's yet to take an NFL snap, possesses the same aura of reigning Super Bowl contenders Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. But don't tell that to Curry himself. The four-time NBA champion grew up in Charlotte. And Young's arrival has given new life to his own Panthers fandom.
"Extremely excited," Curry tells CBS Sports of Young. "I'm excited that we have hopefully the quarterback of the future that can lead the franchise to the heights that we (enjoyed) with Cam (Newton), and potentially get that first Super Bowl. I'm excited to watch him play. I'm rooting for him. I'm excited for the city of Charlotte to have some new excitement, some new energy around the team. I'll be tuned in for Opening Week for sure."
As for the actual Curry-Young comparisons? Turns out there is more in common between the big-name athletes than smaller statures and smooth passing abilities. Young has been especially clear about the importance of his Christian faith, striving to "represent God through football," and Curry, widely hailed as the greatest basketball shooter of all time, still attributes his improbable composure to Bible-inspired humility.
"It's always the centering force around defining my purpose and taking me outside of myself," Curry says.
The two-time NBA MVP, who reportedly once entertained a bid for Panthers ownership, is currently promoting a documentary, "Underrated," from A24, Apple TV+ and producer Ryan Coogler ("Creed," "Black Panther"), that chronicles his journey from undersized small-school player. But he is deliberately understated in the drama, deferring to those who mentored him.
"It's not about me," he says. "It's not about any of the professional basketball accolades. It's not about even the way people talk about you or celebrate you or whatever. It's about the connection you have with people, whether it's personally in your lives -- your family, the way you're able to uplift them, learn from them, encourage them -- to the masses who I may never meet. I've never been one to just bash people over the heads with scriptures or verses or mantras about my faith, but it's about being able to leverage every ounce of platform that I've been blessed with to reach others. I just know that is my mission, and why I've been put in this position. It's a continuation of Romans 8:28, which has always been a (tool for) establishing perspective in every season of life that I'm in. 'For we know that all things work for the good of those who love (God) and have been called according to his purpose.'"
Young draws from a similar playbook, recently telling the Sports Spectrum podcast that "what motivates me ... is to model myself after the Lord." If the rest of the QB's journey mirrors that of Curry in any way, well, Panthers fans would probably be elated. But that doesn't mean the Alabama product should hang his head if the 2023 rookie season doesn't produce immediate success.
"My first college game, when I had 13 turnovers," Curry says with a smile, "I felt like it was pretty bad of a performance, but then when I saw the actual footage for the first time since I played that gave over 15 years ago, it was 100 times worse. It's the vulnerability of knowing how bad it was at one point before I truly figured out how to play."
In the meantime, Young can count on steady support from one of the biggest names in Panthers Nation.