Lions seventh-rounder Willie Young a keeper


Terry Foster/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Chances are, Willie Young is spending most of his free weekend fishing from a dock off the coast of Florida.

He’ll take his catch home, fry it up for his family and relax.

“I love all kinds of fishing, and when I am free, that is what I love to do,” the Lions defensive end said. “I want to find some fishing holes up there in Michigan.”

Off the field, Young is low-key, searching for the perfect fishing spot.

On the field, he’s confident and excitable.

Young throws his hair back into a ponytail and sports a look of indignation. Young, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 (213th overall), compiled 20.5 career sacks and 45 tackles for loss (second in school history) at North Carolina State.

But at 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, he’s built more like a basketball player.

“I ain’t no seventh-round pick,” Young said.

And he’s showing that.

This season, the backup defensive end has 10 tackles and two sacks.

“I don’t feel like I am out of place,” Young said. “I’ve always felt I was in place. I just had to adjust to the business side of things, and once I did that, it has been smooth sailing.”

Hungry on the field

Teammate Corey Williams is one of Young’s biggest boosters and role models.

“All this first round, second round, sixth round, that don’t mean nothing,” Williams said. “If you’ve got the heart to get out there, you belong. Look at how many guys were picked in the first round and were busts. Look how many picked in the first round are not even in the league.

“When you are picked low it doesn’t do anything but make you more hungry. You got to go out and grind it out.”

Young grew up in Riviera Beach, Fla., where it was a challenge every day.

“I come from nothing where nothing was given to me,” said Young, adding that his parents were strict. “When I was growing up I was always hungry. I always wanted more and I took nothing for granted.”

That determination is what continues to drive Young today.

And it doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

“The young man’s got a lot of potential,” Williams said. “I don’t think he realizes what type of potential he has. Once he settles down and relaxes and lets the game come to him, he is going to make a lot of money in this league. It is hard to find somebody built like that who can get off the ball and play the run and the pass like that. He is special.”

If nothing else, Young is confident.

He admits he needs to improve on his game but also says: “I have no weaknesses.”

‘He is an exciting player’

As a rookie, Young played in two games, but impressed coaches with his energy and length.

This season, he’s making an impact, providing depth on the rush edge.

“He is a different guy mentally,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “Once he understood this was a business as well as a game and he got serious, that is when he started to be a whole different guy. It is great to see him being successful.”

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh also has been impressed with Young’s maturity and ability.

“He is always productive, and he is always ready when he gets out there,” Suh said. “He is an exciting player and makes plays and it is exciting to see him play as he has come into a huge spotlight.”

But right now, Young is just enjoying life.

“I am riding the wave right now,” he said. “I don’t think it has really hit me that I am in the league now.”

terry.foster@detnews.com

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