Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young must play the game and not the occasion when he comes up against C.J. Stroud in Week 8.
All eyes will be focused on the battle between Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud this weekend. Of course, many more factors will ultimately decide the clash between the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans at Bank of America Stadium, but the two promising quarterbacks take center stage thanks in no small part to their close connection.
From their days as high school phenoms in California, Young and Stroud boast close ties. They were neck and neck throughout their time in college, built a strong bond along the way, and ended up being the first two players taken in the 2023 NFL Draft for good measure.
It's evident whenever you hear either speak that there is admiration and deep respect between the pair. That won't stop them from wanting to attain success in Week 8, but it's not hard to see why there is an extra sense of anticipation to see these two dynamic playmakers square off for the first time.
Bryce Young focused on what he can control
When discussing the prospect of facing a good friend, Young was keen to state it's only one game and is keeping the bigger picture in mind based on comments via the team's website. The former Alabama star wants the best for Stroud and the feeling is mutual, just not this weekend.
"I try to be, just internally motivated and draw from that and try to run my own race and try to be the best version I can and focus on the stuff that I can control and stuff that I can improve on. And, you know, there's never going to be a time that I'm not rooting for CJ, I guess outside of, I guess, obviously this weekend will be the exception. I don't want to speak for CJ, but I think the same way; we just both want what's best for each other. We both want each other to be successful."- Bryce Young via Panthers.com
Stroud was equally as complimentary of Young, hinting that the criticism coming his way is from those who are just focusing on Carolina's record rather than the signal-caller's encouraging growth. And in all honesty, he has a point.
There should be plenty of motivation from both sides. Stroud wants to get one over on the team that passed up on him atop the draft and Young - aside from seeking his first NFL win - wants to shut up those who think the Panthers should have gone with the Ohio State product.
While feelings will be running high, Young must play the game and not the occasion. He has the mentality to keep everything on an even keel, even if those around him will be striving with everything they have to ensure the Heisman Trophy winner comes out on the winning end by any means necessary.
One of the primary traits that set Young apart from the rest during Carolina's pre-draft assessments was poise. He's rarely - if ever - flustered no matter the situation, which will serve him well with an extra spotlight glaring on Sunday.
After this, Young and Stroud will remain friends and continue to pull for each other. Both have high stakes in this one for very differing reasons, so whoever keeps their cool best should come out on top.
For the Panthers' sake, that better be Young.