A few months back, Doug, the dude behind the blog The Detroit Transplant, twittered me (not a euphemism, I swear) and asked what I thought about Titus Young, the wide receiver from Boise St. As a pretty damn big college football fan, I was pretty familiar with Young – explosive wide receiver, always seemed to be catching deep bombs – but I decided to check the dude out some more and I came away thinking “Holy shit, this guy is the goods.” I told Doug that I’d love it if the Lions drafted Titus Young at some point but I also told him that there was no way Titus was falling past the midway point of the second round and the Lions probably wouldn’t be able to land him, especially since Conventional Wisdom – that mewling idiot who manages to seduce us all with her harlot ways – said that the Lions would focus on defense, defense and more defense before addressing the wide receiver position.
Fast forward a couple of months to late April and Barry Sanders standing on the stage and announcing that the Lions had just drafted none other than Titus Young. Oh. So much for Conventional Wisdom, that lying motherfucker. No one should ever listen to him. Indeed. Much like the Lions first pick, Nick Fairley, their selection of Titus Young was one that no one really saw coming because it didn’t fit the established storyline. But as we have seen every draft day during the Mayhew/Schwartz regime, they don’t really give a shit about the established storyline. It’s up to us to catch up. My brain did the same thing everyone else’s did after Young was picked – whataboutacorner oh GOD WHATABOUTACORNER??? – and then I reached in and slapped it and splashed it in the face with water and told it stop crying like a hysterical woman. It did, and then it remembered that moment a few months earlier when it had delved into the mystery that was Titus Young and it smiled and was glad and then we made sweet, sweet love under the light of the moon until the sun came up. Wait . . .
I don’t want you to dwell too long on the mental picture of me having sex with my own brain – I mean, if you really want to, by all means, have a blast – and so I’ll just move on. (How did this even happen? I don’t even know and I am the one writing this damn thing. I guess my brain wants everyone to know about us. Wait . . . Jesus, this is awful. I’m so sorry.) Anyway, so . . . Titus Young. Like I said, I already knew quite a bit about Titus Young when he was drafted, enough to give me the confidence that the Lions had just stolen a dude. He’s electrically fast. And by that, I mean this: a lot of guys are fast but there are very, very few guys who know how to use that speed in a way that translates to the football field. Titus Young is one of those guys. He’s a natural playmaker, a dude who knows how to move, how to twitch, how to explode at just the right moment. Those things can’t really be taught. You either have them or you don’t.
There are some niggling concerns about his high end speed, but there are always niggling concerns about players’ high ends speeds. It’s like bitching that your Ferrari will only go 220 and won’t kick it up to 230. As long as you’re not trying to escape wild eyed vampire assassins on rocket fueled motorcycles in the Great Salt Flats, I think you’re going to be okay, you know what I mean? Top, top speed is overrated. It’s not really all that relevant. What matters is that electric speed, that ability to know how to use what speed you have. As long as a mutant cheetah on goofballs doesn’t break into Ford Field during a game and make a beeline for Titus, I think he’ll manage just fine with the speed that he has.
He’s not very big – only 5’11” and maybe 175 pounds – but that’s not what he’s here for. He’s not here to be the big possession receiver who moves the chains. He’s here to be the home-run threat who opens up the field for the Lions underneath receivers – the Brandon Pettigrews and Tony Schefflers and Nate Burlesons – and who keeps defenses from loading up on Calvin Johnson. That’s not to say that his size won’t present problems. There will be some plays where he is simply erased by bigger corners, jammed and chucked out of the play at the line before it even starts, but that’s why he went in the second round and not the first, you know?
Because here’s the thing: if he did have that size, then he would have been a top ten pick. He has everything else. He’s explosive as hell, he knows how to catch the damn ball – which is something that for some stupid reason is always overlooked by scouts – he has a knack for the big play and, well, he just looks like a playmaker when he’s out on the field. That’s a hard thing to quantify and I know that it’s kind of a copout, but there are just some guys who when you see them, you know. Titus Young, to me, is one of those guys.
He’s sort of the anti-Derrick Williams in that respect. Williams is also a fine athlete, electric and fluid and all that horseshit, but when he’s out on the field he never looks entirely comfortable. This was obvious even during his time at Penn St. He struggled to catch the ball and he just never looked the part. It was like something was always off about him, like his body was always a fraction of a millisecond behind his brain. That has followed him to the pros, to a place where everybody is faster, and that has made him utterly irrelevant.
I only bring up Williams because he’s the mistake Young is being drafted to erase and to ease some of the OHMYGODWHATIFHE’SABUST hysteria that flew through the collective fanbase like some sort of genetically engineered mutant peregrine falcon with bad intentions, pecking out our souls and ripping at our fragile hearts with its cruel and beastly talons. Titus Young is not Derrick Williams. He’s just not. He’s a hyper-productive player with explosive, world-class fluidity and athleticism. His only real flaw is his size. The Lions drafted a real wide receiver, and strange as it may sound, that is a species that is entirely too rare in this world. Most of the time, you end up with athletes pretending to be wide receivers and it just doesn’t work out. Again, Derrick Williams comes to mind.
Another thing that has gone overlooked in the wave of hysteria stoked by The Fear is that Titus Young – unlike Charles Rogers or Mike Williams (take a moment to let that terrible chill you just felt go away) – isn’t going to be asked to be The Man right away. No. Much like with Nick Fairley, Young will just be asked to play a role. He won’t be the guy who opposing defenses focus on – that burden falls, as it always does, on St. Calvin, hallowed by thy name – which means that he should actually have an easier time getting open and making plays and using that game changing ability than if he was stuck on a shittier team (wow, how weird does it feel to be able to write that?) and forced to be The Man. He’s a complementary piece, but a dangerous one. Much like the selection of Fairley will cause opposing offenses to pick their poison, Titus Young will make it impossible to cover all of the Lions weapons effectively without leaving a fatal weak spot for Matthew Stafford to exploit. Boom. Game over. Checkmate.
So, yeah . . . Titus Young has all the tools to be successful and he’s in a situation which maximizes that opportunity. Again, it’s a lot like the Nick Fairley situation. But again, like with Fairley, there are people wringing their hands and soiling themselves in fear because of the dreaded and all too familiar Character Concerns label. Here’s the thing: I really don’t give a shit about all that. I don’t want Boy Scouts, I want the dude from The Last Boy Scout running down the field with a gun. I’m not a Boy Scout so why in the fuck would I want to cheer for a team of Boy Scouts? I want players who have that edge, who walk the line between controlled aggression and “Get the tazer, boys!” The true greats are almost always assholes. They channel that thing which makes it hard for them to get along in the real world into ritualized aggression and fury. Sport is simulated warfare and I want dudes who can draw upon that part of themselves that is cruel and mean and unrefined.
All that said, no, of course I don’t want my dudes to get caught in a speedboat off the coast of Baja running from Mexicali Federales or cocaine magnets nicknamed El Diablo or to be found screaming wide eyed and naked in the streets, running from invisible demons and covered in hooker blood. Because that means that they will get a four game suspension from Sherriff Goodell and fuck that, you know? It’s all about finding that line – the cliff’s edge – and then standing over it, looking down at the abyss with a wild eyed smile and no fear of anything that walks under the sun or moon, but having the self-possession to understand that while, yeah, you can whip your dick out and piss over the edge into that abyss, you can’t fly so keep your damn feet on the ground and don’t swan dive into oblivion. That’s the trick that I want my dudes to be able to master. It’s the trick we all must master.
But here’s the other thing about “issues”: To me, they’re not an issue until they’re actually an issue, you know? People freak out because a dude got baked at a party his freshman year or they freak out because a dude got drunk and punched a teammate for scamming on his girl. It’s college, goddammit, these things happen. These things are supposed to happen. People mature. People grow up. If you avoided every player with “issues” going into a draft, you’d end up being able to draft, like, six players, 4 of whom are Mormon giants from BYU who are planning on taking two years off to save retarded kids in Mali or to preach to heathen goats in New Zealand. Elite athletes are natural born degenerates because what makes them borderline sociopaths is also what makes them, well, elite athletes.
But just what are young Mr., uh, Young’s alleged “issues”? Well these things are always mired in mystery and wild, dumb speculation, but Young was suspended for much of the 2008 season for the always popular “breaking of team rules,” which means that he probably was partying a bit too much or acting like he was the big dick on campus, which . . . shit, those things were basically my major back in the day. If we’re going to damn college kids to hell for partying too much then, well, I’m afraid hell’s gonna be a pretty crowded place. Titus Young’s “issues”: Is a human being. Well, alright then.
Okay, okay, there were also concerns from teams that Titus was an arrogant asshole in their interviews with him and that he turned some teams off with his attitude, which . . . uh, well, that kind of shit always strikes me as “That boy refused to say Yessuh!” Some people just aren’t soft spoken. Too fucking bad. The sports world – and the incredibly white people who both run it and write about it – fetishize the whole Soft Spoken Young Man thing to the point where it’s almost a damn cliché. I don’t want soft spoken broken souled pod people. I want dudes who are alive, who are wild of spirit and fiery of heart. I want the joyful and the savage. I want the fierce warrior who will laugh and scream after the kill and I want the epic man who will break down in tears when the spirit moves him. I don’t want fake robots with zombie smiles and shriveled up souls. I want people, strong people, people who ride their emotions to the edge of oblivion and then have to lasso them back under control. I want the untamable because the untamable doesn’t give a fuck about what he can’t do. He only cares about what he can do, and I want dudes who will smile at the fire and then run through it because fuck it, that’s why.
I want dudes who are compared to “a stick of dynamite”, which is what Titus Young was compared to by Mayhew after he drafted him. I want dudes who respond to being called a poor man’s DeSean Jackson by saying shit like:
"I've never been another man's nothing," he said, laughing. "I've always known that I've been Titus Young from Day One. My mother named me Titus Demetrius Young. She didn't name me nothing else. I know who I am and I know people compare you to people. But God made me to be me. He made me to be Titus Demetrius Young. You can compare me all you want to, but I'm no man's poor man.”
Titus Young said that to the Detroit News and goddamn right, Titus. Goddamn right.
But that’s not all. I want the dude who says shit like this:
"Actually, my initials my whole life have been T.D. Young," said Young, the youngest of five children — and the only boy — growing up in Los Angeles, where his parents, Richard and Teresa Young, are pastors. "So it's been Titus Demetrius Young — Touchdown Young. So I just feel like football has been me ever since I was born. And now I can go play some more football in Dee-troit." He cackled as he put the emphasis on that last part, and he did so often Friday, enjoying this moment for all it's worth. He even let out a little banshee cry at one point.
Fuckin’ A right! But hey, what’s this? There’s more? Indeed:
"My roots are actually in Detroit," Young said, when asked to explain the tears. "It's just the emotion of I'm actually gonna be back in a family town. That's my home now. I'm gonna take care of Detroit, and I know they'll take care of me. And all this emotion is really just all the hard work and all this waiting and all this patience and having faith in the Lord and …"
"But the whole thing is just about winning," he added. "I feel like we're all gonna be winners in Detroit. Not just me — the community, the kids in Detroit, they're gonna know that the Lions are here to stay. We ain't just no anybody; we're coming to play."
You’re goddamn right, Titus. We’re coming to play. And Titus Young is gonna be a big part of that and I couldn’t be happier. You take your character concerns and everything else and you light ‘em on fire and shove ‘em up your ass because I want the dude who said all that shit to be a Detroit Lion. And he is. He is. And he’s coming to play. He’s gonna take care of Detroit and by God, we’re gonna take care of him.