SMITHFIELD, N.C. --
Sweat dripping off his face and legs burning from lactic acid, Dylan DeYoung finishes the last few reps of star jumpers. It’s not over yet though, he still has a lap around the track, sprints and other calisthenics to complete before the day is over.
When he’s done, he’s physically drained, but he’s not discouraged. Over the past year he’s worked as hard, and he has been finishing his workouts stronger each day. He is lighter and faster than he was before, and it’s all a part of his plan to become one of the nation’s finest.
DeYoung is an unassuming 19 year old with razor sharp focus and a drive to do whatever is necessary to complete his goals. The 2014 graduate of West Johnston High School in Benson, North Carolina, lost more than 70 pounds over the course of 17 months to join the Marine Corps.
DeYoung was an active child, playing soccer, baseball and football, but as he got older, he got more sedentary. He says that video games and poor diet lead to most of the weight gain. Then, as a sophomore, he joined the football team as a defensive lineman and gained weight to play better. At his heaviest DeYoung weighed in at 260 pounds, a lot of weight for a 5–foot 8-inch frame.
“The bigger I am, the harder I am to move,” said DeYoung when talking about the necessity of weight on the football field.
While that weight carried him through three years of football, it was only slowing him down in achieving one of his goals, becoming a United States Marine. DeYoung says that he spoke to Marine recruiter during his junior year, but knew he would have to be much slimmer by the end of his senior year.
He began researching and looking to his family and coaches for help to lose the weight. He started exercising, running and changing his diet in November 2013 after the end of his senior football season.
DeYoung used apps like MyFitnessPal to track calories and workouts. As he lost more weight and gained more knowledge, he began to rely less on the apps and more on what he knew. Cathy DeYoung, Dylan’s mother, say she would suggest foods to Dylan, but he would research and could often tell her why one food would be better than another.
“I knew that he would lose the weight because it was an expectation,” said Cathy. “He researched, he investigated and he did it all on his own. He is really driven to join the Marine Corps.”
DeYoung says he ate a lot of chicken and brown rice and the weight fell right off. As he got lower in weight, the weight loss got harder but he kept pushing himself and staying focused.
“The hardest thing is staying motivated,” he said. “So at night, I would watch Marine Corps videos. I’ve never really wanted anything as bad as I want to be a Marine.”
Within 17 months, DeYoung has gone from barely being able to run half a mile to running a 5k race in 26 minutes – 3 minutes away from his goal of 23. He has gone from zero pull-ups to three, and he has done it mostly on his own.
When DeYoung finally walked into Permanent Contact Station Smithfield, North Carolina, in January 2014, he had lost the weight and was ready to join the Marine Corps.
“Dylan is one of those kids I wish I had a lot more of,” said Staff Sgt. Michael L. Block, a recruiter with Permanent Contact Station Smithfield. “It speaks to his character that he was so persistent. He’s one of those kids, that when he leaves for recruit training, I know he’ll come back a Marine.”
Dylan now motivates other potential Marine applicants. He comes in extra mornings to train with poolees who need to lose weight.
“He motivates the other guys to want to do more, and he never gives up,” said Block, a native of Buffalo, New York.
Dylan officially swore into the Marine Corps on April 30, 2015.
“This feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “This gets me one step closer to completing my goal.”
DeYoung will ship to recruit training in the summer and hopes to obtain the military occupational specialty of rifleman. To other applicants who need to lose weight, he said the biggest piece of advice he can give is to stay motivated.