We've all heard or read about the seamier side of college athletics. Schools getting busted by the NCAA. Graduation rates hovering near the Mendoza line. Money changing hands illegally. Abusive fans. Law-breaking athletes.
Then along comes someone like Drake's Josh Young to refresh your spirits and remind you there's also a lot of good in college sports.
Young is so skilled that he's Drake's career leader in scoring and 3-point baskets. If he makes four more free throws at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this week, he'll become the leader in that category, too.
But there's far more to Josh Young than what he does on the basketball floor. He's a good student. He can light up a room with his ever-present smile. Little kids flock to him. Mothers love him. He's the type reporters enjoy interviewing -- thoughtful, well-spoken, patient and modest. When he greets you, he looks you in the eye, shakes your hand firmly and says, "Hi. Josh Young." You know who he is, but he introduces himself anyway.
My longtime friend, Randy Minkoff, and his wife, Sue, work with athletes on dealing with the media and how to conduct themselves in interviews. Josh Young could be their poster guy. They don't come more polished. Last year, when the Drake Relays honored its Athletes of the Century, Josh was among those picked to escort them the ceremony.
Young played his last game at the Knapp Center, Drake's home arena, on Saturday. It didn't go quite the way Young or the Bulldog faithful had hoped. Josh again led the team in scoring. With the Bulldogs trailing and time running out, he banked in a floater to tie the score with 8.1 seconds remaining. Sadly, for the Bulldogs, he scored too quickly. Evansville's Denver Holmes hit a 25-footer at the buzzer to give his team a 56-53 victory.
Afterward, Josh stood at halfcourt with his family and listened as tributes to his character and accomplishments rang through the arena. Some of the strongest praise came from Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb, who said Josh "exemplifies everything that's great about Drake.'" She talked about his smile and said if her son grows up to be anything like Josh, "it will be a great day."
It couldn't have been easy to go through the ceremony after such a disappointing loss. But rarely has anyone been more deserving of such a salute.
And every once in a while, even as the sting from the loss lingered, that smile broke through and everything was OK again.