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What's eating Titus Young?

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Titus Young is a Bronco legend and was turning heads in the NFL. Now, instead of a franchise tag, Young has little more than a "buyer beware" sticker. So what's up with Titus? I wish I knew.

Leon Halip

Titus Young's career at Boise State was filled with highs and lows, but outside a suspension-filled sophomore season—was significantly more "high" than "low". He might have had a touch of punk in him then, but always seemed to self-correct long enough to say exactly what it seemed he should. The humility, the soft-spokenness and love for the game always seemed to be so close to the surface—only sometimes obscured by flights of immaturity or bravado. But Young never seemed uncontrollable—at least to the public. This was a kid so loaded with natural talent and ability that he tripped on his ego from time to time. It happens. Some of the best cornerbacks are said to have that same attitude—they want to be tested, so their mouths take over. Titus, for stretches of his Bronco career, was simply uncoverable. His speed, burst, quickness and moves made him one of the most dangerous receivers in WAC history. So, sure...he got caught up in his own hype and flaunted it from time to time—that was just Titus being Titus.

By his senior year at Boise State, Titus seemed to have shed the immaturity and only increased his skills on the field. Suddenly, this near cast-off was turning the heads of NFL scouts and analysts everywhere he went. His Senior Bowl and Combine performance only underscored their findings. Titus could be a superstar in the league—and his emotional play and persona charmed teams and scouts, rather than turning them off. Titus said the right things and did the right things en route to a surprising 2nd round pickup by the Lions. His rookie campaign with Detroit was what we'd come to expect from Titus—607 yards and 6 TDs. And sure, there was a few flashes of the "old Titus" too, but that was just his raw emotion coming out, right? I mean, he'd never really been tested, so the league had to bring about a few new frustrations...

But something happened with Titus between his first and second year in Detroit...for one, he had a son. For many, this type of event—for lack of a better term—makes a man out of you, and Titus appeared to relish the role, changing his name on the back of his jersey to "Titus Young, Sr". Showy? A little...but who's going to fault a proud father? And camp went well—Detroit media stated that Young was "uncoverable" and predicted big things for the sophomore—especially with him lining up opposite the league's best receiver, Calvin Johnson. Teams would double-team Johnson, Young would be running free nearly every play—it was going to be an awesome year. Well, except for sucker-punching teammate Louis Delmas in camp, it was going to be awesome. Again...Titus just let his emotions get the better of him and he came back contrite and ready to work. The fight was water under the bridge and nothing would stop Titus from having a true breakout season. This isn't just what I's what most people thought. By year's end, the Lions had parted ways with Young (after he practically begged them to) was dumped by the Rams after a little over a week, and Terrell Owens was offering Young unsolicited behavioral advice. Terrell Owens. Yes, Titus fell that far that fast. Now, his NFL career may well be over unless he can squeeze the kind of goodwill out of a team that Pacman Jones was able to. Why?

The answer is obviously complicated and requires a bit of speculation, but it could very well be that Titus can't help it. It sounds like a cop out, but look at his history. Humble, quiet, emotional one minute—angry, selfish, unreasonable the next. People often joke that when others display wild mood swings that they are "bipolar"—well, Young may well be bipolar and that's no joke. Now, I do still think Titus may have some of that "punk" in him. We saw it at BSU and we've seen it in the league. But it's the irrational Titus Young—the one that seems to be the antithesis of the quiet, soft-spoken kid we've heard in interviews—that worries me. Would someone throw away a promising and lucrative career over a immature hissy fit? It's probably happened before, but I think there's more beneath the surface with Young. A humble, charitable, soft-spoken Pastor's kid can be a petulant child...but Titus has gotten worse, not better—and that doesn't seem to be the career arc of someone that plays "for the love of the game" like Titus has avowed.

Obviously, people with emotional struggles don't get a pass. Titus may well have other deep character flaws that exacerbate his other problems. But, rather than cast stones at Titus—it may be time to extend the support of Bronco Nation to the kid. You certainly don't have to like his antics, but maybe we don't yet know the full story. Titus needs some help right now—and whether that's an olive branch from an NFL franchise, counseling, or medication—I sincerely hope he gets it.