During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions made three interesting selections in the first three rounds that raised a few eyebrows. Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure, all top college players with big question marks were snapped up early by Detroit, and each arrived with their fair share of sizeable concerns.
In relatively short time, unfortunately, most of those negative issues were proven true in some way. Fairley got in trouble with the law twice in a short span in his home state Alabama with drugs. Leshoure quickly followed suit in Michigan. Both were punished, and since, each seems to have rebounded with the proper mix of dedication, maturity and commitment.
Then, there's the curious case of Young, a talented wide receiver who never seems to have his head in the right place. While craziness was happening off the field, Young avoided the similar legal troubles of his two contemporaries. There was, however, lingering on-field issues. At Boise State, he was suspended for fighting with a teammate. In May, there was a mini-camp dustup with Louis Delmas. Meanwhile, in 2011, Young never seemed to assert himself in games or take the next step toward greatness. We wrote those events off as simple maturity issues and figured he'd work through it as age took over.
But Monday, after an embarrassing performance against Green Bay in the middle of another wildly inconsistent year, Young was abruptly sent packing from the Lions' practice facility, simply told to stay home on Thanksgiving Day, have some turkey and watch his teammates on television. There weren't many details given, but you can intimate through Jim Schwartz's words that this move came as a direct result of maturity and focus issues on the field.
It's becoming obvious that Young might be the biggest problem child of the 2011 class and his development has reached a crossroads. Leshoure has put his problems behind him and given the Lions' usually irrelevant ground game a boost while remaining a good citizen. Fairley, after concerns about dedication, looks the part of an evolving defensive tackle. His 2012 season has been excellent, quiet off the field and ironically, while Young was spatting with coaches, Fariley was earning their praise for nearly taking over the game against the Packers.
Unless things change in a hurry, Young has already taken over Fairely's old role; the Lions' player viewed as an uncommitted rudderless ship careening out of control. For those who have substance abuse problems or issues with the law, outside help is always available. For talented football players who simply don't care, there's very little coaches or organizations can do other than shut their stars down and hope they wake up.
The pot of coffee is now officially ready for Young. If he doesn't smell the aroma quick, he might find himself out of town or worse for him, out of football completely. In spite of raw talent, few teams want anything to do with young players who care little for their teammates, constantly make the same mistakes and don't respond well to coaching. It's football's dirty secret that no cocky, indestructible kid anywhere wants to believe.
This Thursday, while watching his teammates compete, Young should give thanks he has been blessed with the opportunity to play in the National Football League. Then, he should begin the same introspective process Fairley and Leshoure have apparently already undertaken to get serious and find focus. Perhaps they must all rely on each other for constant support, as well. There can always be hidden strength and motivation in numbers.
After all, two of Young's comparable teammates have already seemed to grasp Albert Einstein's A=X+Y+Z formula for success. If A is success, then X represents hard work, Y represents play and Z represents keeping your mouth shut.
Now, it's solely up to Young to solve his own puzzle for A in short order. For him, it first starts with finding the proper balance between X and Z.
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