Although Birmingham, Alabama may not be the bowl game destination the University of Cincinnati football team was hoping for, the city holds significant weight for one player.
Senior linebacker Perry Young grew up in Birmingham and attended Spain Park High School in the suburb of Hoover.
Naturally, Young had a different perspective than his teammates when it was announced Cincinnati (10-3) will play Boston College (6-6) in the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl Thursday at Legion Field.
"This is a great opportunity for me to end my career in the place where it started," Young said.
UC was in a position for a berth in the Cotton Bowl Classic toward the end of the regular season, but consecutive loses to Memphis derailed that possibility.
"We wish the outcome was a little different with the conference championship game," Young said. "At the end of the day, we still have each other. Sometimes the most important thing is having one another, having memories and having good times with the people you're surrounded with. It's a limited time that we're around here."
Young, now a captain for UC, said his favorite memory from his younger days in Birmingham is competing for a state championship in 2015 at the University of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Although he doesn't have an estimate of how many friends or relatives will be in attendance Thursday, Young said his phone has been constantly buzzing with messages on social media from people he grew up with in Birmingham.
"My mom just called me and said, 'Keep asking for tickets,'" Young said. "It's going to be a good crowd. A lot of my friends from high school keep saying they want to come and support me. They've only really seen me play on TV, but they want to see me in person. I might have my own little student section. I'm just excited to be able to perform in front of them."
UC went 4-8 in Young's freshmen and sophomore seasons, which included the resignation of Tommy Tuberville and hiring of current head coach Luke Fickell.
After finishing 11-2 last season, UC has a chance to reach 11 wins for the fourth time in school history with a win Thursday. The Bearcats' haven't had consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins since 2008 and 2009.
This entire season has been a story of perseverance for Young, as he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in November 2018 on a controversial chop block by a Navy offensive lineman.
Young spent last winter and spring in rehabilitation, which gave him a chance to reflect and appreciate his football career.
"Coming back this season has been a humbling experience," he said. "[The injury] gave me a lot of doubt. It opened my eyes, just knowing that this game could be taken at any moment without your control. It made me want to be a better person, better teammate and a better leader."
Young was named to the All-American Athletic Conference first team this season and has recorded 77 tackles in 13 games.
The Birmingham Bowl kicks off at 3 p.m. EST on ESPN and 700 WLW.