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.”

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Joe Barksdale Jr. plans to be ready

Tom Markowski/ The Detroit News

Detroit— To Joe Barksdale Jr., it’s all about the preparation. It’s a day-by-day process built on the traditional values of family, religion and hard work.

If one is prepared, no situation or challenge is unmanageable.

On April 29 Barksdale, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound offensive tackle from Louisiana State and a 2007 graduate of Detroit Cass Tech, patiently awaited his number to be called in the NFL draft. He had the assurance of family members, his trust in God and the satisfaction of knowing his work was about to pay off.

When Barksdale was selected in the third round, 92nd overall, by the Oakland Raiders, he took it in stride. Despite some mock drafts tabbing him for the middle rounds, some as late as seventh, he listened to his coaches at LSU.

“ESPN was talking sixth or seventh round,” Barksdale said. “Everyone was talking sixth or seventh round. I knew I wasn’t going past the fourth, just by what my coaches were saying. Things happen for a reason. I’m happy to go with Oakland, win some games and win a Super or two.”

Timing is everything

Barksdale must continue to play the waiting game. Rookies can’t sign a contract because of the NFL lockout. Barksdale did sign with an agent, Isaac Conner of a3 (Allegiant Athletic Agency), and continues to work out, over two hours a day, four days a week with his personal trainer, Charles Fobbs, a former Cass Tech assistant coach, to be ready when the contract dispute ends.

“Nobody knows when it will end,” Barksdale said. “All you can do is stay in shape. I take care of what I have control of. It’s like the motto at my fraternity: “Do thy duty that is best and leave unto the Lord the rest.”

Fobbs said the lockout hurts the free-agent rookies, not the players who were selected in the draft.

“If I’m the owner or GM, I have to use what I have,” Fobbs said. “I can’t trade for one. Then there are the free-agent veterans. Who are you going to sign, a free agent out of college or a free-agent veteran? You’re going to see a lot of players go to the (Canadian Football League). And why not? You have a chance to play and have someone watch you. It would behoove the owners to watch them. And it won’t cost you anything.”

Barksdale said he’s not bothered by the lockout. He’s confident the upcoming season will be played. He said his agent takes care of his financial needs, what little there are.

“I don’t spend a lot of money,” Barksdale said. “I never had a lot of money. Maybe five dollars in my pocket and that’s it. You give someone who never had candy before some fat-free twizzlers and they’re good.

“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I need money for gas to see my girlfriend (in East Lansing). My hobbies are simple. I have an IPOD, a MacBook. The MacBook is starting to run my life. And I listen to music and play video games.”

Game plan

Barksdale said he didn’t play football as a means to go to college. Going to college wasn’t a choice. His parents, Joe Sr. and Rita Barksdale, made that clear. That’s one reason they sent their son to Cass Tech, to prepare him for college. The plan was for Barksdale to become an engineer. That changed.

Fobbs saw something special, tremendous potential, when he worked with Barksdale as a freshman at Cass Tech. Fobbs convinced Barksdale’s parents to trust him with their son.

“Back then I knew he could play on Sundays,” Fobbs said. “The long shot was, do the parents do what they’re supposed to do? Do they trust me to take their son to Texas for a week in January? I had to educate them. He couldn’t go to family reunions. They couldn’t schedule doctors’ appointment during the school year. He had to be mine.”

Barksdale, who didn’t play football until his freshman year, began to realize his potential late in his sophomore season. Quickly he became a dominant lineman on both sides of the ball. After his senior season, he was named The Detroit News No. 1 Blue Chip prospect.

After researching schools he chose LSU over Ohio State. Fobbs said Barksdale made his selection based on the number of offensive linemen from LSU that made it to the NFL. That’s preparation.

Barksdale started for three seasons at LSU, at right tackle the first two and at left tackle his senior year. He was named second team All-Southeastern Conference his senior year and helped LSU win the Cotton Bowl.

“I expect to start right away,” Barksdale said of his opportunity with the Raiders. “My goal is to play 12 years. I want to play forever.

“I do love football. I know it will be hard when it’s over. When I’m done, I’ll coach and take that money they give me to coach to charity. If you play 12 years, you won’t need more money. I won’t want to work a normal job when I’m done. No 9-to-5 for me. I’m going to ride this train until the tracks run out.”

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