Rise of the Titus

Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson aka ‘Megatron’ is without a doubt a bona fide superstar in the NFL, so naturally the spotlight is always on him. But somewhere behind that spotlight is Lions rookie wide receiver Titus Young, and he is patiently waiting for that time when he will step into the light.

Pro Player Insiders caught up with Titus in Indianapolis at a ‘Play 60’ event, a campaign that the NFL Players Association launched to help kids be active for 60 minutes a day to prevent childhood obesity.  Young, sporting a “One Team, One Community” t-shirt, exuded all the confidence and swagger of a 22 year old who had just completed his first season in the big leagues… and for good reason.

Taken in the 2nd round with the 44th overall pick, Young has emerged as a solid slot receiver for the Lions and a reliable target for current comeback player of the year Matthew Stafford.  He finished his rookie campaign with 52 receptions for 640 yards and 6 TDs, including an appearance in the playoffs.

At the Play 60 event, Young emphasized the mantra of the NFLPA’s program and wanted to encourage the kids to keep active.

“I’m here today to help the kids out,” Young said. “We’re encouraging exercise today and hopefully we can get a good 60 minutes out of the kids today.”

Young also noted the value of teamwork and he was asked about his “One Team” shirt, and he responded, “One Team means basically, you can’t win without everyone being together, so I feel like today I’m going to teach the kids what it is to be a team player and compete against each other and have a little bit of fun.”

Good idea too, because football is the ultimate team sport.  The quarterback throws the ball, but the play isn’t effective unless the wide receiver catches it.  And being currently 3rd on the Lions WR depth chart, Young knows (or must know) all about being a team player and not getting all the glory.  When asked if he had any mentors in the league to look up to, he mentioned a few of his current teammates.

“Currently in the NFL, I would definitely say [Lions receivers] Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson,” Young said. “They have always been an inspiration to me as far as, you know, the way they approach the game and just the way they handle things on and off the field.”

And of course, Young added that he also looked up to the greatest wide receiver of them all.

“[I look up to] Jerry Rice. I actually had a chance to meet him this offseason, we spoke some good words, he gave me some encouraging words, you know, gave me some key tips about route running and scoring touchdowns so that’s always good when you can get some advice from the greatest player to ever do it.”

With so much talent around to learn from, and a coaching staff that has taken Detroit from laughingstock to a playoff team, Young’s young career is in good hands.  His star potential was becoming evident toward the end of last season, where he scored 4 TDs in as many games.  Next season, the Lions will look to make a deeper playoff push, and Titus will be looking to move up the depth chart.

He’s even started to learn the player code of the industry.  When asked to share what he learned from Jerry Rice, he laughed and said, “I don’t think I can tell you guys that!  I’ll be giving away the secrets!”

Mia Hutcherson interviewed Titus Young for this story.

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