Terrell Owens was drafted out of Tennessee Chattanooga with the 89th pick in the 1996 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Owens boyhood dream finally came true, forever idolizing then current superstar wide receiver Jerry Rice; Owens had a chance to learn from the very best. Thought to most as being an average prospect in a goldmine of a frame, 6 ft. 3 in. 224 lbs. Owens was drafted more on promise than anything else.
The Transformation to T.O.
Terrell had your average rookie campaign of 35 catches for 520 yards and 4 tds. He was quick to turn those numbers around though basically doubling his output 2 years later in 1998 with 67 catches for 1097 yards and an enormous 14 touchdown grabs.
Terrell’s career-defining moment came on the biggest stage there is. During the Wild Card playoffs, the rival Green Bay Packers were in town and leading 27-23 with mere seconds remaining. As the great lefty Steve Young scrambled to make time, he saw a streaking Owens down the hash, immediately after he broke the line-backing corps, Young sailed a lob to the front of the end zone where a narrow window of opportunity presented itself; Terrell jumped to grasp the pass immediately getting flattened by two defenders. He hung on, he hung on!! Owens was showered by his teammates as tears of joy ran from his eyes; Terrell had arrived. The quiet talent is now a player of superstar caliber. T.O. was born. “It is one of the biggest catches in this organization's history,” Mariucci said.
“I had a rough day up to that point,” Owens said. “I did not want to get into a big game and choke up. I'm glad I got the chance to redeem myself.” (1)
T.O. Grabs the Spotlight
December 17, 2000. We say farewell to a legend in the greatest receiver of all time, Jerry Rice. Yet Rice would be outdone on his special day by an emerging superstar receiver. Terrell wouldn’t just shine we would plant his stake firmly in the 49ers record books with 20 catches for a jaw dropping 283 yards. It seemed nearly every time the ball left Jeff Garcia’s hand it was majestically planted in Terrell’s hands. Two 49ers records, the supplanting of a legend and a superstar’s biggest day all in one glorious afternoon. Owens finished the year with a career best 1451 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“What I did by no means overshadows No. 80,” Owens said about his mentor. “He's been a big part of my success.”
With tears in his eyes after the game, Rice passed the torch to Owens. “Records are meant to be broken,” Rice said. “I feel T.O. is going to carry on the tradition.” (2)
Terrell Owens 20 receptions broke an NFL record that had stood for 50 years. “I was prepared for this not to be a day for Terrell Owens to shine,” Owens said. “But the defense gave us something. I ran my routes and Jeff found the open receivers. I only wish Jerry could (have) gone out like this.” (3)
Terrell Owens and Sharpie
A lot was made of T.O. when he scored a touchdown on Monday Night Football and took a Sharpie out of his sock to sign the football. Terrell Owens is a character who likes the spotlight, but he also has a heart for others. In 2003, Sharpie donated $500 to Alzheimer’s research for every touchdown T.O. scored.
“I am happy that Sharpie sees the importance of supporting this cause that is so close to me,” said Owens. “This will make scoring TDs even more satisfying since the donations will help people just like my grandmother.”
“Sharpie is bold and expressive just like Terrell,” said Greg Stoner, vice president and general manager for Sharpie. “With the help of Terrell, together we can make a permanent mark on disease research and education.” (5)
With the 49ers franchise heading toward the rebuilding effort, T.O. saw this as a perfect time to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. One problem, he had aligned himself with a worthless agent who didn’t get his papers filed on time. 49ers brass then traded T.O. to Baltimore in exchange for a second round draft pick. T.O. however, had absolutely no interest in playing for Baltimore and made clear his demands; he wanted to be in Philadelphia with Donavan McNabb. With help from the NFLPA T.O. got what he wanted.
Owens to Philadelphia
T.O. was finally with the big-armed quarterback he wanted; now it was time to perform. Not wasting time Terrell caught three touchdowns in his very first game with the Eagles en route to a 1200-yard 14-touchdown season in just 14 games, making his fifth straight Pro Bowl. Terrell however missed the final two games of the regular season as well as the four weeks leading up to the Super Bowl with a broken ankle sustained in week 15 at Dallas. Leading up to Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years, it was still undetermined if Terrell would be able to suit up in the biggest game of his career. He was medically cleared mere days before the big game and he did not disappoint. To the tune of 8 catches for 122 yards he was unable to put the team on the podium. Terrell eventually burned his bridge in Philadelphia ending what could have been an extremely successful situation. Terrell had his best success in Philadelphia; it was just too bad it had to end so abruptly.
“He plays with a certain ferocity on the field, and that's part of what makes him so good,” Dr. Edwards said. “When he doesn't get the ball, that ferocity is turned on the people – head coaches, assistant coaches, quarterbacks – who aren't getting him the ball.” (4)
Owens Goes to Big-D
After the debacle in Philadelphia, a mere four days passed before T.O. took his sharpie and his pom poms to the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. In his lone season thus far he totaled 85 catches and 1180 yards, also leading the league with 13 touchdowns. Although he was snubbed a sixth straight pro bowl, Terrell’s career has been that of an uber-talented athlete marred by constant controversy. Where will his career take him is yet to be determined but it is certainly exciting to watch as this everlasting drama unfolds.
“He's a great player, but a lot of times some of the things he says off the field are just crazy,” Keyshawn Johnson said. “It's not that serious to want that type of attention, it's just not. Come on, man, everybody knows you're great. If you continue to do well and lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, they can't argue that you're a Hall of Fame player. Just roll with the program, that's all you've got to do. You don't have to keep creating a firestorm for yourself. But you've got to one-up somebody week after week, so I guess that's how it goes.” (6)
By T. Lewis, 20Yardline.com
Terrell Owens Bibliography
(1) THE CATCH II; OWENS' MAGICAL TOUCHDOWN GIVES 49ERS WIN FOR THE AGES: SAN FRAN. 30, GREEN BAY 27 (1999, January 4) Daily News