Found May 24, 2012 on
Fox Sports Detroit:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. - You know you're a fishing fanatic when that's your sack dance in the NFL.
Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young put his creative celebration on display during last year's Monday Night game against the Chicago Bears. After throwing quarterback Jay Cutler to the ground, Young went into a fly-fishing routine that ended with him pretending to reel in a catch and then showing it off to the crowd at Ford Field.
"It was something me, my dad and my brother always joked about," said Young, an avid fisherman who grew up in Palm Beach, Fla. "That's what I do for my leisure time so I figured why not bring it out and have some fun with it?"
Young, a seventh-round pick by the Lions in 2010, is entering his third season in the NFL. He's hoping to do that fly-fishing dance even more this year.
Young, who played in college at North Carolina State, appeared in only two games for the Lions as a rookie but he started to make a bigger contribution last season. He finished with 14 total tackles, including three sacks, in 14 games.
"Willie's rookie year, you could see the development, you could see flashes," veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "Last year, you could see more consistency. Now you expect him to become a player.
"It's no longer a matter of hope. There's going to be expectations that he develops into a guy we can depend on this year."
With Vanden Bosch entering his 12th year in the league and Cliff Avril's future after 2012 unclear because of contract issues, Young's performance this season could factor into some of the club's personnel decisions down the road.
Is Young simply a good back-up player? Or could he develop into a reliable starter despite being the No. 213 pick overall?
"It's a big year," Young said following Thursday's news conference to promote the Lions' charity fishing tournament. "After this year, I'll be a restricted free agent.
"I'm just looking to go out and do what I do. What's going to happen is going to happen."
Where he ends up in 2013, and with how extensive of a role, is a question that won't be answered for a while.
For now, Young is content with trying to improve himself during the Lions' off-season workouts, not to mention getting himself ready for that big fishing tournament.
It's being sponsored by not only the Lions but also Kevin VanDam, a Kalamazoo, Mich. native who is the all-time money winner in professional bass fishing.
Young is a big fan of VanDam's. They met during an autograph signing last year at one of the Bass Pro Shops.
"I was kind of star-struck in a way," Young admitted.
Young said his biggest catch was a Tiger Shark that he estimated at around 250 pounds. He caught it off the east coast of Palm Beach, releasing it before the shark got too close to do any damage to the boat.
Young said he hasn't been fishing in Michigan yet, but he badly wants to catch a salmon.
Maybe he'll celebrate by pretending to spike a football or something.
The Lions and Avril are reportedly 2 million a year apart on a long-term contract, according to the NFL Network.
Avril is said to be seeking a four-year deal worth more than 42 million. He has until mid-July to sign a long-term contract. Otherwise, he will play for the one-year, 10.6-million franchise tender that the club put on him for 2012.
Avril has not been participating in the club's voluntary OTA workouts.
"There's a concern but you understand things from his perspective," Vanden Bosch said. "You hope that they can get things worked out because he's going to be a big part of what we do (this season).
"I saw Cliff about a week and a half ago. He's staying in shape. He's working hard. He's been in this system. He knows our scheme and knows what we do. He'll be OK once he comes back."
FISHING TOURNAMENT FACTS
The inaugural Detroit LionsKevin VanDam Charity Fishing Tournament, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, is scheduled for June 12 at Kensington Metropark on Kent Lake in Milford.
To participate in the tournament, the cost starts at 3,500 for two people to be joined by a Lions player on a guided boat provided to them, or 1,500 for three people on their own boat and without a Lions player.
For 100 a person, fans can attend the weigh-in and awards dinner where they can meet the players and VanDam.
Proceeds will support the Detroit Lions Charities and Kevin VanDam Charities. More information is available on the Lions' website.
"There's a lot of golf tournaments," Vanden Bosch said of fund-raising events. "This one's unique. It's good for us. A lot of the players grew up hunting and fishing.
"It's a good change of pace from football. It's a good thing to get your mind off whatever stresses you've got. I really enjoy it."
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