Ex-NFL player in prison opens up about 'hearing voices'

Combined Shape

It’s been five years since Titus Young has played in the NFL, but he has not given up on his hopes of returning to the league.

The fact he hasn’t played for so long will be big obstacle to his comeback, but not as big of an obstacle as the four years in prison he was sentenced to serve in April.

But Young’s story is not about a football player who got in trouble. It’s about a football player who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder who got in trouble, and what role concussions may have played in his mental illness.

Young played two seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. Despite 81 receptions and 11 touchdowns in those two seasons, Young was released by the Lions after the 2012 season for various off-the-field run-ins with the law. He hasn’t played in the league since.

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The end of his career didn’t mark the end of his legal battles, however. He has accumulated at least 25 criminal charges — including 10 for assault or battery — in Southern California since 2013. He was even arrested three times in less than a week.

The most recent charge, a 2016 assault arrest, landed him the four-year sentence he’s now serving.

In notes he sent to the Los Angeles Times for a story it was doing about Young’s career, the former Boise State star said some of the violent actions of his past were prompted by voices in his head.

“I have made so many mistakes I have become a little ashamed of being Titus Young,” he wrote. “A lot of the stuff I have done was out of my control during the time. … I was hearing voices.

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“Hearing voices is no joke, it’s actually very scary. I feel like someone is trying to come kill me.”

Young said bipolar disorder has been a major reason for his problems.

“Having bipolar has pretty much torn down my life,” Young wrote. “It’s been four years of fighting so many different behaviors. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to believe it because I felt my life was too perfect to have bipolar. Football players don’t take medicine. I’m macho. Put me back on the field. But, no, that’s really not what I needed.”

Young’s parents testified in court documents that their son’s behavior was exacerbated by a concussion he suffered in his rookie season.

Young himself also said head injuries he suffered while playing football might have impacted his ability to make sound judgments.

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“My fight or flight in my brain was off and that could be due to head trauma suffered while playing football,” Young wrote. “All I know now is I’m back to normal and I take good medication and I’m not ashamed of it either.

“It’s kind of hard for me to think wisely in sticky situations where I feel threatened. Taking the medicine allows my mood to be stabilized and helps with hearing voices. Yeah, I have heard voices, as well. The voices came and came from the bipolar. It’s usually when I let my brain relax and focus on others. I can kind of hear them.”

Young will be eligible for parole in March, and he hopes it will be granted so he can start his journey back to the league.

“I want to be free,” Young wrote. “I believe God has a plan for me and deep down I believe it’s to dominate the NFL. So when I make this comeback to the league, [Roger Goodell] and the rest will understand that athletes are not exempt in mental illness. We have to live with these differences for the rest of our life.”

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Combined Shape
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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