John Niyo: Lions might strike lightning with Titus Young


John Niyo

Allen Park — Moments after the Lions drafted Boise State receiver Titus Young in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night, general manager Martin Mayhew called him “a stick of dynamite.”

Not long after, somebody decided to light the fuse on a guy who’s about to become a fan favorite in Detroit, whether Lions fans realize it or not.

He’s been called a poor man’s DeSean Jackson by at least one prominent draft analyst, as the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared him to Philadelphia’s dynamic Pro Bowl playmaker leading up to the draft. And not to be outdone, Lions coach Jim Schwartz even referred to him as “DeSean” by accident after responding to a question about that comparison Friday night.

But while that’s a heck of a compliment — and the Lions have been practically penniless when it comes to a No. 3 receiver the last couple of years — Young passionately and playfully took issue with it.

Advertisement



“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.”

And right there, man, I can tell you this: We in the local media were starting to realize we probably struck it rich with this pick.

Whether or not the Lions did, none of us can say for sure, obviously.

I actually liked the pick — more so than the trade up to snag Mikel Leshoure, though I didn’t have a huge problem with that, either — because it adds talent and addresses a glaring need. (And in case you didn’t notice, Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams combined for a whopping 21 catches last season.)

Sure, there’s more glaring needs at linebacker and cornerback. But the best of the corners were off the market before the Lions picked Friday night. And if you hadn’t noticed by now, this draft class of linebackers is more than mildly underwhelming. (A linebacker from Michigan (!), Jonas Mouton, was a second-round pick.)

Just call him T.D.

Young, meanwhile, is anything but underwhelming. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder plays a little like Jackson, maybe, and in addition to his return ability, he could thrive in that role Schwartz envisions for him helping Nate Burleson help Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, and vice versa. (Where will he play? “Where Calvin’s not,” Schwartz joked.) But he also smiles and laughs eerily like Desmond Howard — Young laughs a lot, too — and he talks a bit like Chad Ochocinco, which isn’t all bad.

But sorry for the interruption, Titus. Please continue that thought.

“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, as he talked about leaving behind the dominant program they’ve built on the Smurf Turf in Boise and joining the Lions, who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999.

“The green turf is gonna be a little bit of an adjustment for me,” Young said, “but I know the blue uniforms will keep me at home.”

And fittingly, at least the way Young sees it, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders was the one on the stage Friday in New York announcing his selection for the Lions.

“I know Barry Sanders,” said Young, who had his off-field struggles early at Boise State but rebounded well playing for a no-nonsense coaching staff. “I know a lot about him. He went to Detroit and he wanted to win. His whole thing was about winning. And unfortunately he wasn’t able to win as much as I believe that when I come in we’re going to be able to win.”

All of which brings him back to where he started in a 10-minute conversation that had everyone in stitches, even after he got choked with emotion and broke down in tears a couple of times.

Family ties

It turns out Young has family ties to Detroit, where his maternal grandfather lived. He hasn’t visited since his grandfather passed away in 1998, but he says he’s coming home.

“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 …”

And then he broke down again, just before he managed to crack another joke about his father being from Texas. (“So he’s probably a little upset I ain’t in Dallas,” Young laughed.)

“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.”

john.niyo@detnews.com

twitter.com/JohnNiyo

Leave a Reply