The bizarre and troubled story of receiver Titus Young will now head to St. Louis, where the former second-round pick of the Detroit Lions will attempt to redeem a career that has quickly spiraled away from him.
Given his documented history of repeated mistakes at every stop, such a redemption appears unlikely.
On Monday, or the first day teams could make roster moves following the Super Bowl, the Lions granted Young his outright release, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press. A disturbing run of destructive and distracting behavior all but forced the Lions' hand.
But Young didn't stay without employment for long, as the Rams claimed Young off waivers on Tuesday. According to Mike Garafolo of USA Today, the Rams were the only NFL team to put in a claim for the 23-year-old receiver.
For the 31 other NFL teams, a long rap sheet of worrying behavior likely made Young an untouchable asset.
Just two short years ago, Young arrived in the NFL as the kind of risky-but-ultra-talented draft pick that so many teams are willing to take a chance on in April.
Certainly, NFL teams knew of his many troubles at Boise State. During his sophomore season, head coach Chris Peterson handed Young an "indefinite" suspension after an altercation with a teammate.
When asked why the original suspension (at least three games) became indefinite, Peterson told Chad Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, "It's just that we need some time apart."
A year later, Young had won back the good graces of Peterson and he went on to set single-season school records for receiving yards in 2010 (1,215) and career marks for receiving yards (3,063) and receiving touchdowns (25).
However, the writing was already on the wall for the future trouble he would give his first NFL team.
In January of 2011, Dan Pompei of the National Football Post wrote that clubs were already having reservations about Young's personality.
Teams are conflicted on Boise State wide receiver Titus Young. He was an absolute star in practices, inspiring one front office man to compare him with DeSean Jackson. But his interviews were a little concerning. He also might have a little DeSean in him as far as his personality goes.
Despite the obvious red flags, the Lions drafted Young at No. 44 overall in April of 2011. One of 28 receivers drafted that season, Young came off the board before the likes of Torrey Smith (No. 58, Baltimore Ravens), Greg Little (No. 59, Cleveland Browns) and Randall Cobb (No. 64, Green Bay Packers).
Young's first season in Detroit finished mostly without incident, although a unnecessary-roughness penalty against the New Orleans Saints in December cost the Lions a potential touchdown and later warranted a "Grow the (expletive) up!" response from center Dominic Raiola.
A month later, according to the Detroit Free Press, Young said he had "learned" from the incident.
"I don't know if it characterizes under my name or anything, but some things in life, you have to live and learn. I feel like it was definitely an experience I learned from, and I've definitely grown as a player after that incident."
But the problems were just beginning.
In May of 2012, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz sent Young home for punching safety Louis Delmas during a scuttle at organized team activities (OTAs). Delmas wasn't banned, but Young wouldn't return to Lions Park for another week.
Again, we heard the same old song and dance.
“My absence from the practice facility and the OTAs last week was necessary for both myself and the team," Young wrote in an official statement on the Lions website.
After impressing coaches and media alike during the rest of the offseason, most dubbed Young as a potential breakout candidate for the Lions. A talented deep threat, Young was placed into the perfect opportunity for such a breakout: starting in a heavy-passing offense that featured a top quarterback and the best receiver in football (Calvin Johnson) taking up double teams on nearly every snap.
Yet mental and maturity issues continued to dog Young's career in Detroit.
In the 2012 season opener against the Rams, Young was benched for head-butting rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins in the third quarter. The move drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty, and he caught just one pass for 14 yards while playing only a handful of snaps in the second half.
Again, Schwartz had to address the incident.
He didn't do a smart thing. We knew what was going to happen in some situations. He and a couple of guys [Jenkins and Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan] were going back and forth, and the whole thing was right in front of me. It looked like he was going to do the right thing and walk away, but at the last second he turned and made a really dumb decision.
Later in 2012, Young was all but writing his way out of Detroit.
During the fourth quarter of a November contest with the Green Bay Packers, Young was benched for purposely lining up in wrong positions. Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had a heated exchange on the sideline about Young's digressions, and Schwartz was forced to suspend the receiver for Week 12.
Lions beat writer Chris McCosky also noted that the discipline had to do with Young's "whining, pouting, sulking" about not getting thrown the football more, per Rotoworld.
While Young returned to Lions practice the next week, he was made inactive in Week 13 before being placed on injured reserve (knee) a week later.
Despite all the turmoil, neither Schwartz or general manager Martin Mayhew made any indication that Young wouldn't have a chance to redeem himself with the Lions in 2013. In fact, Schwartz said there was "still a window" for Young to return, according to Birkett. In early January, Mayhew said a decision had not been made, according to McCosky.
Yet Young forced the Lions' hand when he went on a bizarre rant against the team on Twitter and reportedly said he was better than Calvin Johnson.
Young tweeted in late January (since deleted) that "if I'm not going to get the football I don't want to play anymore." He later childishly proclaimed that he had never run the wrong route.
According to Birkett, Young also told E.C. Robinson—his high school coach—that he was better than Johnson. And he meant it.
He did tell me he thought he was just as good Megatron. I said, ‘Titus, come on.’ I said, ‘Come on, man. Who you talking to?’ I said, ‘Come on, you’re as good as that guy? This guy is the real deal.’ And he really believes this. And he was sincere about it. ‘Ah man, I’m better than him.’ I said, ‘No you’re not. Be real man. Come on.’ So I don’t know, I’m hoping for the best for him.
The final nail in the coffin came when Young essentially begged for his release over Twitter. That tweet remains:
Young got his wish, and he's now in St. Louis with another second-chance to turn around a career that has clearly wandered far off the right path.
A person's history is just that, but this long and concerning list of repeatable mental mistakes doesn't bode well for Young's chances of suddenly turning things around in St. Louis. At every stop, Young has forced the hand of a coaching staff, and there are clear periods of mistakes, redemption and then more mistakes.
McCosky even reported in late January that the Lions attempted to get Young mental and emotional help, but the troubled receiver refused all attempts.
To be fair, every young player in the NFL makes mistakes at some point. But Young's problems now represent more than just simple red flags of immaturity. As ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert wrote, "They are signs of a troubled soul who isn't equipped at this point in his life to function in the NFL's high-pressure world."
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has worked with such players in the past, including Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, Albert Haynesworth and Janoris Jenkins. Maybe he can be the one coach to get through to Young.
However, such a history of insubordination and violence doesn't give Young a very high chance of turning his career around, even in St. Louis. Young needs to get his life and mindset in the right place before he'll present himself the opportunity to live up to the immense football talent he actually has.
Some time away from football might have been a good thing for Young. By claiming him Tuesday, the Rams have simply given him another platform for continuing a career filled to the brim with the same mistakes.
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