In our first issue of “Where are they now?” we looked at former Ohio State guard and EuroLeague MVP Amedeo Della Valle. This week, we’re taking a look at former Ohio State walk-on guard and viral internet sensation, the one and only Mark Titus.
Titus, now 32, grew up in the basketball-crazed state of Indiana. Raised in Brownsburg, he became the fourth ever 1,000-point scorer in Brownsburg High School history (NBA star Gordon Hayward is one of the other three). He played on the same AAU basketball team as former NBA players Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, and Josh McRoberts, as well as current NBA stars Mike Conley and Eric Gordon.
Despite his success in high school, Titus was not heavily recruited by college programs. In his book “Don’t Put me in, Coach” he tells a story where Harvard sent coaches to watch one of his games. Titus used some -choice- language to his head coach before the game that day, and was benched for the first half. The Harvard coaches left the game before Titus ever entered the game. The offer from Harvard never came.
Instead, he followed his good friends Oden, Conley, and Cook to Ohio State, where he intended on joining the team as a manager in the fall of 2006. After a very short time as team manager, Titus decided that the manager life just wasn’t for him, including and was quoted in his book saying something about “not wanting to wipe up Greg Oden’s ball sweat ever again.”
Titus intended on leaving the basketball program altogether, but was then approached by coaches about joining the team in a more “official” capacity as a walk-on. The rest, as they say, is history. Titus went on to play in 32 games over the course of his four years, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds. He also had two steals and two huge blocks in his career.
But what was truly noteworthy about his career at Ohio State was not anything that happened on the court, but on the internet. During his junior season (2008-2009), Titus started a blog, “Club Trillion”, which was a reference to his typical line in the box score of 1 minute and then 0’s for all the stats following it. Titus wrote about his life as a walk-on, including the antics of him and his teammates. He also gave his off-color opinions on the state of college sports and life in general.
In 2010, he created the infamous “Mr. Rainmaker” video, shot in Ohio State’s practice facility. It has received over 600,000 views on YouTube, and starts out by telling viewers, “I’ve been hearing a lot of talk that some of you motherf**kers think I can’t play basketball. Well I’m here to prove you wrong.” He then proceeds to......well, you can just watch for yourself.
Paralleled with his blog, in 2015 Titus revealed on a Reddit AMA that he suffered through severe depression during his final two seasons at Ohio State and the few years that followed.
“It’s almost like you don’t want the depression to kind of seep through so you’re just building up wall after wall after wall. And you’re always trying to be funny because if you just try to not be funny and be a normal person then there’s a chance that you’ll let something slip, and then everyone will know what you’re going through.”
The Reddit thread received almost 1,000 responses from people around the globe, many of whom were going through similar situations. Titus emphasized that he didn’t “have” depression in the past tense, but that he has depression, and has learned to live with it and make life decisions that would give him “positive momentum” to keep moving forward and to see things through a different lens.
In 2012, Titus wrote a book about his time on the bench at Ohio State, “Don’t Put Me in, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench.” The book details Ohio State’s success in his four years there, including their run to the national championship game in 2007. But the majority of the book focuses on shenanigans that ensued both inside and outside the locker room, including one instance where Titus froze all of Greg Oden’s underwear in a hotel freezer while on the road.
Side note: I promise this book is worth a read. It’s 257 pages of nothing but nonsense and inside stories about those teams and our favorite tomato-faced head coach, Thad Matta.
After graduating from Ohio State in 2010, Titus was hired in 2011 to write for Grantland.com, a sports journalism site started by former ESPN host Bill Simmons. In 2015, Grantland shut down, and Simmons created a new sports and pop culture website, The Ringer. Titus then joined The Ringer in 2016 as a college basketball writer, where he met Tate Frazier, a fellow basketball fanatic and writer at The Ringer
Titus and Frazier, who is a North Carolina graduate, began a college basketball-focused podcast “T’d Up” on The Ringer in 2017. The podcast was renamed “One Shining Podcast” later that year, and recorded weekly episodes until late 2019, when both Titus and Frazier left the Ringer for undisclosed reasons.
In January of 2020, it was announced that both Frazier and Titus had been hired by Fox Sports and the Westwood One Podcast Network to host “Titus and Tate”, which is essentially the same podcast they’ve always done, albeit on a bigger budget. The two go in-depth on draft predictions, reactions to each week’s games, which coaches are most similar to each character on “Tiger King”, if the FBI will EVER bring the hammer down on the cheaters in college basketball, and everything in between. You can find their stuff on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. Here is a sample:
MOSES'S PICK FOR THE DUKE-CAROLINA GAME IS IN pic.twitter.com/yaRVxeyVDH— Titus & Tate (@titusandtate) February 8, 2020
Titus also used his platform to begin the Club Trillion Foundation in 2019, which aims to provide scholarships to walk-on basketball players each year. From the website:
“Neglected in the debate over whether college athletes should be paid is the case of the walk-on — a student-athlete who is neither compensated with a scholarship nor allowed under NCAA rules to profit off their own name. And since being a college athlete requires a significant year-round time commitment, working an off-season job is often out of the question, leaving these walk-ons no choice but to take out substantial loans to pay for their education.”
The foundation also connects walk-ons to internship and employment opportunities post-college, because many of these athletes do not have the opportunity to pursue them while in school due to the scheduling demands of playing college basketball. This puts them squarely behind their peers when graduating and searching for full-time employment.
In 2020, the Club Trillion Foundation was able to provide their first scholarship of $15,000 to Tate Clayton, a walk-on at Mississippi State University. The goal is to provide more than one scholarship per year moving forward, but that is dependent on donations. You can donate to the Club Trillion Foundation here.
While the road to get where he is now certainly took some abrupt turns on the way, it seems Mark has found his niche in the world of sports media and the game of life. Keep being yourself, Mark!