It’s so easy to vilify Terrell Owens. He was a locker room nuisance. He was a petulant hothead. He constantly held demonstrative press conferences at the expense of his NFL teams. He was a self-absorbed star who bumped heads with his quarterbacks when he didn’t get the ball enough. He was the same guy who cried when his quarterbacks weren’t respected. He was emotional. He was honest. In his prime, he was the most dangerous receiver in the league. He is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and it’s no surprise that he’s nominated for the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
It’s so easy to ignore T.O’s stout resume because of his childish antics. Before he bathed himself in self-absorption, he was a quiet kid out of Alabama who just wanted to play ball. As a teenager, he attended Benjamin Russell High School, and excelled in basketball, track, baseball, and, of course, football. While he thrived on the gridiron, his home life was dismal. An absentee father plagued Owens’ throughout his life and career. While many tend to chastise Owens because of his controversial lifestyle, marred by several baby mamas and his pompous personality, they forget so quickly what number 81 did on the field.
Who can forget when Owens teamed up with his childhood hero Jerry Rice in San Francisco in 1996? Who can forget when Steve Young and Owens clawed back against the Green Bay Packers and T.O. scored the game-winning touchdown? How about that chilly night in December 2000, when T.O. corralled an insane 20 receptions for 283 yards? Father Time nabbed Jerry Rice and allowed for Owens to become the face of the franchise.
After Rice and Young departed, San Francisco became T.O.’s team. The same thing happened in Philadelphia, and later in Dallas. In Philly, Owens had the unmitigated gall to suit up and play in Super Bowl XXXIX with a broken leg and bum ankle. He only had nine catches for 122 yards. Talk about being ballsy.
“I played as many plays as I could,” Owens said back in 2005. “I played as many plays as the coach called. He allowed me to get on the field and he called my number. When he calls [your] plays, you have to be on the field. I played, no matter what. You don’t get tired on this stage.”
Owens has a total of 15,934 receiving years, which places him second among receivers. He’s sitting comfortably at the fifth spot with 1,078 receptions all-time. If those numbers aren’t gaudy enough, he has grabbed 153 receiving touchdowns, while piling up a total of 156. He’s number three and five overall, respectively.
During the early 2000s, kids were enraptured by the God-like performances of Owens and Randy Moss. It wasn’t only because they torched their opponents, but how they did it. Swag was their cologne and they wore it so well. After T.O. posterized opposing defenses, he would celebrate in a variety of ways. From the pom-poms, to the sharpie marker, to the popcorn move, he was a walking billboard for sheer entertainment. Before Marshawn Lynch became a press conference favorite, T.O. laid out the blueprint a la Jay Z.
Terrell Owens was an agitator. He was a locker room disruption everywhere he went. But, quite frankly, everywhere he went, including pit stops in Buffalo and Cincinnati, he showed the hell up. He managed to earn another 1000-yard season with Buffalo and the year after, he managed to add 983 yards with the Bengals with nine touchdowns.
It’s hard to disregard T.O.’s resume. The man is a legend. The man is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Let’s get him to Canton and hand over that coveted jacket he truly deserves.
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