Titus Young: From Joke to No Laughing Matter

May 12th, 2013

Titus Young’s most recent mugshot (Photo courtesy diehardsport.com)

Jeff Risdon
Former Lion Titus Young continues to make news for all the wrong reasons. After being a source of schaudenfreudist smirking for the last few months, the story has turned. The time for mocking is over. Now it’s time to be compassionate and help Titus Young.

Not that Young has made it easy to feel compassion for him. His ostentatious bravado in his Lions tenure was sort of charming at first. He embraced the “new kid at the playground” concept of picking a fight with the reigning champ on the first day of school, instigating a fight with widely respected team leader Louis Delmas. His overconfidence was on full display when he declared he was better than Calvin Johnson in such a tone that it was clear he was not kidding.

Young did flash some genuine talent in his two seasons, catching 81 passes including 10 touchdowns. That seemed to justify the second round pick in 2010, as Young was legitimately a perfect fit for what the Lions offense needed. He was a strong #2 receiver with downfield ability and yards after the catch acumen. But the problems just kept mounting. The boneheaded penalties. The deliberate sabotaging of plays. The recalcitrant attitude at practice and on the sidelines. The defiance when confronted with his own future as a Lion, which he met with truculence and arrogance.

There were warning signs with Titus Young going back to college. Scouts who traversed to Boise knew that Young had attitude issues that seemed to go beyond mere immaturity. Some teams flagged him early on because they didn’t believe Young could ever fit their team culture. Yet Young shined when given a shot at an open audition. At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Young was a star. His balls-out effort on every rep, his Sharapova-like grunting every time he made a cut, his big smile and gregarious personality in interviews, it all served to raise his star high enough that he was a legit consideration in the first round. Joe Fortenbaugh wrote an excellent piece on this for National Football Post, and many of us in Mobile had a similar experience with Young; it sure appeared as if the light finally came on for Young in terms of maturity and responsibility.

Martin Mayhew and the Lions became believers in the illusion of Young. The disillusionment came swiftly, however, and Young was gone the day after his second season, one which he ended stashed on injured reserve with what might have been a knee injury, was over. St. Louis kicked the tires but scrapped Young within a fortnight, unwilling to tolerate any more of Young’s foolishness. That put him on the street.

Young hit that street hard. He spewed out some venomous, nonsensical tweets that too many, myself included, found funny. Not funny in a comedic way, but rather a condescending glee of superiority at his lowly, jester-like ways. That laughter reached raucous levels on May 5th when Young was arrested for DUI, then arrested a few hours later for trying to steal his impounded car upon his release from the drunk tank. It was something straight out of a Will Ferrell movie that’s funny for 3 minutes and agonizingly awful for the other 87, a cheap laugh that would be unbelievable if it weren’t true.

That probably should have been a deeper clue that something was amiss with Young. People who are right in the head simply don’t do things like that. Some close to Young apparently did see the signs and reached out to him to try and help, but Young turned them away. The arrest this past Friday for burglary, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer is a sign that nobody can ignore, least of all Young himself.

Titus Young needs help. I’m not going to pretend I know enough about psychology or mental illness to try and say what’s wrong with Young, but something is certainly wrong with Titus Young. He needs professional psychological help from mental health professionals. If he won’t get it on his own, someone close to him needs to force his hands. Perhaps the legal system will shuffle him into the help he desperately needs. But Titus Young needs help.

This is a tricky subject for pro sports teams and athletes. Houston Rockets draft pick Royce White has essentially thrown away a potential NBA career because of his well-chronicled mental issues. Former Bears draft pick Alonzo Spellman suffered from mental illness and wound up spending years in jail because he never got, nor accepted, the help he needed. Bengals wideout Chris Henry battled mental health issues for years before finally getting everything seemingly in order, yet he succumbed to one last bout with mental fragility. It cost Chris Henry his life. This is the path Titus Young is heading down. Enough people who care about Young need to intervene here and get him off that path, one way or another. The time for joking is over.

There are success stories that can serve as examples for Young. Brandon Marshall has had several legal brushes and admitted to a personality disorder, but he has found a way to control himself enough to be a great NFL player. Ricky Williams was an infamous free spirit with severe anxiety disorder that pushed him away from the game for a while, but he rebounded into a solid contributor for many years. Perhaps someone close to them can get close to Young, be it an agent or a therapist or a doctor, and help get his life back in order. Because the Titus Young story is no longer an amusing one, and it’s sad to see a talented young man with such potential throw it all away when he can still be helped. Get help, Titus Young, before it’s too late.

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4 Responses to “Titus Young: From Joke to No Laughing Matter”

  1. Lou P. says:

    Chris Henry, you might recall, was diagnosed posthumously with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This isn’t to say that Titus Young has CTE as well, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he does.

  2. Dexter McCluster says:

    Excellent article, Jeff. Compassionate and correct in its tone.

  3. Mani C says:

    Good article Jeff but the trouble for Young starts at home. If you go through Youtube there is video of Young with his dad and his attitude and tone in that is the same arrogant and self important tone he evidently displayed when with the Lions. Father it appears never addressed the issue, which is the most disturbing aspect about this.
    Young’s issues imo appear to travel farther back than his time with the Lions. He has had mental issues for a number of years although it may have been accelerated by his time in the league. Be it the level of expectation on him or the limelight on NFL players.

    His father adds this is not the son he knew and raised. To me that’s a painful part of the issue, he never got to know his own son even when he was displaying such troubling characteristics from a young age. Hopefully his father gets him the help he needs now.

    This story is tragic in so many ways, hopefully it reaches a good conclusion for Young. As for the Lions you can see its affected their drafting in a major way – look through the individuals they have drafted last two drafts. Maybe every one learn something from this, including us fans.

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