There are a hundred ways to lose weight these days: Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Scarsdale, Richard Simmons' Deal a Meal, fasting . . .
Ram receiver Michael Young found a way of his own. The idea struck him April 24. Young was home in El Toro--probably eating corn chips--watching the National Football League draft on ESPN.
"There are two easy steps to losing 20 pounds," Young said later. "Have a first- and second-rounder drafted at your position."
That's first as in Aaron Cox and second as in Willie Anderson.
Young might have finished running his first mile before the second round ended. His career flashed before his eyes.
"It was my draft-day resolution," he said. "I recommend it to any professional athlete. After the draft, I realized they were serious about changing things. At first I thought that was it, maybe I wouldn't be playing anymore. It was obvious I wouldn't be playing for the Rams anymore."
Last season, Young took the course of several Ram teammates--he went soft. He lost confidence and motivation but gained plenty of weight. Young finished the season at 199 pounds, a really \o7 wide\f7 receiver.
He entered this year's training camp at 178 pounds, prepared for the fight of his life. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure the odds.
Fact I: Henry Ellard is the No. 1 receiver.
Fact II: Cox and Anderson, the high draft picks, are going to make the 45-man roster.
All of which leaves Young and a cast of 1,000 fighting for the fourth wide receiver position.
Young got one break when Ron Brown retired. He got another last week when Kevin House was put on waivers.
Still, the competition this summer is fierce, and it appears that Young is battling eighth-round choice Darryl Franklin and free agent Thomas Henley for the final spot.
Young, entering his fourth season with the Rams, has always been an enigma--a receiver waiting to happen. A sixth-round choice from UCLA in 1985, he caught 14 passes as a rookie and 15--3 for touchdowns--in 1986. Things were looking up.
Then came 1987 and Ernie Zampese's new offense, a scheme that seemed suited for Ellard and Brown, but not for Young.
That, of course, was only part of it. A strike and inter-office turmoil can also botch up a season. So Young finished the year with 4 catches for 56 yards and slipped into the comfortable world of anonymous backup.
"With everything that happened, I felt I had no chance, no matter what I did," Young said. "It was my fault. I let myself become content as a backup. I never challenged myself to be better. I felt it wouldn't do me any good. Looking back, it was absolutely the dumbest thing I could have done. That's where I made my mistake. I told myself I'd never do that again.
"This situation looks more gloomy than last year, but I realized if I take that attitude, I'll be lucky to be here, period."
Coach John Robinson says that the wide receiver positions, other than Ellard's, are wide open. And, for once, Young believes it.
"I think they're willing to play the best player, whether it's me or a free agent," Young said. "I'm sure they'd like to see Aaron or Flipper at the No. 1 spot opposite Henry, but I don't think they have any problem with me being out there. It's a nice feeling, because I never felt that was the case ever since I've been here."
This week, in fact, Young is running first team with Ellard.
"I know that doesn't mean I'm starting," he said. "It means that's were I'm at right now."
According to his coaches, Young must take advantage of his experience, which may sound strange. But at 26, he's the second-oldest receiver, behind Ellard.
"That's got to be Mike's strength," receiver coach Norv Turner said. "We are very, very young. And when (bad) things happen, youth has a way of coming out. . . . This is a big year for Mike. His response (the weight loss) shows how big it is. We have some young guys with some fine skills."
The other receivers:
Aaron Cox: The only thing he lacks is experience. Still, he's a No. 1 pick with a ton of talent and is almost a cinch to be a starter come September.
Willie (Flipper) Anderson: He gives the Rams the deep threat Brown did, but Anderson seems to have the hands to do it more consistently.
Darryl Franklin: Turner said that Franklin didn't run well in the scouting combine workouts, which may have turned him into an eighth-round pick. "People were not sure he could run," Turner said. "But he has good hands and good speed."
Thomas Henley: He's the surprise so far. Henley, from Stanford, came to the Rams as a free agent after having been released by the New Orleans Saints. "He's very intelligent and does things right," Turner said. "And he consistently makes the difficult catches."
The race is on.
"Henry (Ellard) is in a class by himself," Young said, assessing the position. "Just because of his experience and the things he can do. I think the rest of us are all real even."
Tight end Pete Holohan (tight hamstring) and fullback Donald Evans (neck strain) will not make the Canton trip this Saturday, Coach John Robinson said Tuesday. Robinson is planning to take 70 of the 91 players currently in camp. . . . With Dale Hatcher out six to eight weeks, the Rams are combing the league for punters, but don't figure to sign anyone before Saturday. "I want to look at punters in a game," Robinson said. "The guys who are good aren't going to be released just yet." Until then, it's Ball State's Bryan Myers.