Willie Young reels off tackles and reels in bass in Detroit

December 21, 2012
By Chris Saunders
Photo by Gavin Smith/Detroit Lions.

Willie Young chases down former Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson. Photo by Gavin Smith/Detroit Lions.

Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young has been fishing for so long that he can depend on an unpredictable way of finding a fishing hole. He pulls up the GPS on his phone and looks out a larger radius for blue spots representing water. Then he follows the directions to take him to the blue destinations.

The former Wolfpacker loves fishing so much, he doesn’t especially care where he ends up, as long as it’s wet. “I may end up down the road,” Young says, laughing at himself.  “I’ve ended up in some places you’d be surprised.”

And sometimes those places put Young, who played at NC State from 2006-09 before being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, in precarious situations.

On one of his recent excursions, he ended up fishing in a lake in what turned out to be a man’s backyard. And when the man found Young fishing there, the third-year pro had to play the celebrity card to avoid trouble. “I had to tell him I was a Lions’ player,” says Young, who adds that his explanation paid off. “I pulled some nice bass out of there.”

Photo courtesy of willieyoung79.com.

Photo courtesy of willieyoung79.com.

It makes sense that Young dedicates much of his time to fishing. Before coming to Raleigh to play for the Wolfpack, he grew up in Riviera Beach, Fla., fishing with his father. He credits his love all things angling as being his biggest expense and taking up most of his time in the offseason. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” he says. “If it’s raining, I figure out how to go fishing.”

This season, when he hasn’t been wading around in freshwater or tweeting and  posting on his website about his latest catch, he’s been trying to find his way on the field with the Lions. Young says he took a lot of snaps in preseason and felt primed to play a bigger role. Once the season started, his time went back down to around 15 plays. “It was just the adjustment of going from a lot of snaps to about 15 a game,” he says. “I had to make that adjustment. I made the commitment to myself.”

Young says he’s committed to a strong finish to the season, despite playing through a serious injury that almost brought amputation to a middle finger. It’s been a season  that has slowed for the Lions, a team whose playoff expectations were tempered by a 2-4 start to the season. And he says he knows the Lions have the team in place to win. “When you come into the season with the expectations we had, we had them for a reason,” he says, citing he teams return to the playoffs last season for the first time in since 1999. “We definitely discovered we have talent and the right guys in.”

When this season ends in a few weeks, Young will start preparing for 2013. But he’ll have fish to compete with in the offseason, too. “I don’t know if I’m just attracted by the fancy of a lure,” he says, ” or if I like a species that doesn’t have any hands or feet but still makes it a challenge to get out the water.”

And he says there’s no telling where he may end up reeling them in. “‘No trespassing’ is the best fishing out there.”

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