When the Detroit Lions drafted Titus Young in the second round of the 2011 draft, I thought the Lions finally found a wide receiver that could complement All-World Calvin Johnson.
But now, at age 25, he was arrested for the third time on five counts of battery…how far and how fast Young fell from grace is astounding.
Were there warning signs of trouble? Or was Young just another player that coaches looked the other way because of his talent?
To say that Young was a game changer may have been an understatement. His high school stats are impressive. While at University High School in Los Angeles, he amassed 1,879 in 92 catches averaging 20.4 yards per catch in his 3 years as a varsity player.
At Boise State, he continued his dominance posting 3,063 yards over 204 receptions while scoring 25 TD’s, including a career high 83 yard touchdown score. He was considered by many a top-flight receiver but trouble was brewing for Mr. Young.
Young was in trouble frequently while at Boise State. Missing workouts, arguing with coaches and being generally a disruption to the team. Regardless of how talented a player you are, being disruptive causes teams to lose cohesion and trust in one another is lost.
Discipline seemed to have little effect on him. Then coach Chris Petersen sat him the first quarter of the 2007 Hawaii Bowl for violating team rules. In 2008, Petersen suspended him for three games, again for violating team rules. Two weeks later, Petersen extend the suspension indefinitely saying the team and Young “needed a break” from each other.
In 2011, Young declared for the NFL Draft…and trouble continued to follow. One pre-draft training site kicked him out because of his attitude. All of these warning flags, despite being considered by many draft pundits a considerable talent, caused many teams to bypass Young in the draft.
The Lions took a chance on him. Desperate for the need to get help for Calvin Johnson, Lions felt the 5’11” 174-pound receiver with 4.39 speed was just the ticket. And Young seemed to respond to the Lions by working hard.
In his rookie season, Young was used primarily as the 2nd receiver. He was named the Detroit Sportscasters Association Rookie of the Year.
But a leopard rarely changes spots, right? And Young was no exception. Despite his success on the field, his troubles off the field began to escalate…and even at times leaked between the lines.
He started to become undisciplined on the field. In a game against the New Orleans Saints, he shoved safety Malcolm Jennings in the face, drawing a 15-yard penalty and was benched the rest of the game. Other incidents occurred and caused Young’s friends to ask the NFL for help. Young declined the offer extended from the NFL.
2011 fared no better as Young continued to spiral down. Young sucker-punched Lions safety Louis Delmas and was suspended for two weeks. After a game against the Green Bay Packers, the Lions again suspended Young for getting into a verbal confrontation with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and for deliberately lining up in the wrong position two times during the game. The Green Bay game was the last game he played for the Lions. In February of 2014, the Lions released Young.
The St. Louis Rams claimed Young off waivers but then released him a few days later. Head coach Jeff Fisher said the reason was because the team wanted to go in a different direction. However, Sports Illustrated reported the reasons were because the Rams were concerned about his behavior. He seemed lost in interviews with Fisher and threw a fit when he was barred from boarding a flight to Los Angles after forgetting his ID.
After his release, Young was out of football, considered a pariah because of his behavioral issues. Teams acknowledged his talent but his disruptive ways more than offset that talent.
What happened to Young isn’t rare. The only reason his story is so prevalent is because he happened to make it to the NFL. But no parent, relative, coach or teacher worked hard enough to help him. Granted, we all know that people need to want to be helped and if Young spurned all the offers of help, there was little that could be done.
However, he went through several systems and became successful in each of them because he was a talented football player. So who is culpable in all of this? Certainly, Young has to be held accountable for his actions. But I also feel that society is accountable as well.
Of all his days playing a game he loves, where was the discipline, the one tough enough to sit him when he acted out? Not during his college or NFL days, by then, the damage was already done.
But the elementary and high school teams, they needed to start the process then. Kick him off teams instead of treating him special because of his talent.
I don’t know all of the ins and outs of Young’s life and I don’t purport to being an expert in behavior issues. But I do recognize that Young was screaming for help for a long time…and was ignored.
So from the penthouse to the outhouse he goes, probably going to jail and most likely and early ending to a once promising life.