Photo courtesy Crave Online

Photo courtesy Crave Online

When you talk about people’s falls from grace, almost no one’s descent has been more rapid or dizzying than that of Titus Young.

On October 28th of last year, Young, as a wide receiver for the Lions, caught nine passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. It was a career game. 196 days later, he is unemployed — having been released by not one but two NFL teams — and has been arrested three times in a little over a couple weeks, two of the arrests occurring in one day.

Now his father, Richard Young, has come out and told the press that his son is suffering from a brain disorder.

It’s the explanation that no one suspected but everyone can see fits. The irrational behavior, the mislaid priorities, the alienation of friends and loved ones. It was as if Titus Young had an invisible drug problem. And far too often, that’s exactly what mental illness is.

Photo courtesy AP

Photo courtesy AP

Now what compounds the complexity of the situation are insinuations made by Young’s family. According to his father, the disorder, which his father said he cannot remember the name of, came as a result of a concussion in 2011. Not only does this immediately become a problem for the league because of the increased sensitivity to physically-enduced brain trauma in recent years, but also because the Lions never listed Young as having suffered a concussion.

But it’s the current vagueness surrounding this whole sad saga that leaves us unsure as to what to make of it right now. There aren’t just more questions than there are answers, there are more questions then we immediately realize need to be asked.

For one, what exactly is Titus Young suffering from? His father being unsure of the condition is admittedly bizarre, but we don’t know the ins and outs of their family dynamic. Young is a legal adult and he has the right to share his medical troubles with absolutely no one if he so chooses. Still, then how does his father know a brain disorder exists?

Then there’s the question of why no one picked up on this before. Let’s be clear: to release someone from your roster in the NFL is to concede whatever assets (draft picks, money, etc.) you had invested in them. Someone somewhere either didn’t do their due diligence looking into Young and wrote him off as a distraction in the locker room, or they knew/suspected Young might be mentally imbalanced and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to see that he got help.

And what if it’s true that this all stems from a 2011 concussion? At the very least, it underlines the fact that there simply is no safe number of hits one can take to the head. The safe number is zero. As in zilch, nada.  You don’t have to be a 10-year veteran athlete in a contact sport to develop mental issues. Sometimes, you just have to be a 23-year-old kid who was in the wrong spot on one wrong play.

If Titus Young does, in fact, have a brain disorder as his father says he does, we may never know how it developed. Yes, it could’ve been football related, but it also could’ve just happened. While mental illness typically has a genetic heritage, a man talented enough to play in the National Football League reminds us that ‘typical’ doesn’t really mean anything these days.

Photo courtesy AP

Photo courtesy AP

Since there is no way to judge brain trauma in living human beings and there is absolutely no pathology to diagnose HOW brain trauma occurred, we may never know the events that lead to Titus Young’s life and career, at least temporarily, spinning out of control.

We’re just sort of left shaking our head. Thinking quietly to ourselves, “what a shame.”

What a shame, indeed. But the story is not over. If Young once and for all can accept the fact that, no matter how we got here, we’re here and there’s no changing that, he can learn to adapt to the situation. With mental illness, there’s no fixing the problem. I as much as anyone else know that. But just because you can’t win the war doesn’t mean you can’t win every battle.

Young is only 23. Admittedly I didn’t do the research, but I’m sure there were guys older than him taken in the NFL draft last month. So let’s put a positive spin on this story for a change. If — and I’ll concede it’s a big if — Young does what he needs to do to get his demons — medical or otherwise — in check, he can essentially be a rookie with pro experience already under his belt.

How good does that sound? I’m not just talking about a fresh start, I’m talking about never acknowledging the troublesome years that came before. You see, mental illness changes who you are. Quite literally, you become a different person. So with it in check, you can return to the person you once were.

And for a team willing to take the risk, that means getting the guy with the kind of upside the Detroit Lions saw two years ago.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans!