Jay C. Brandriet
There is no disputing that Terrell Owens is one of the most polarizing athletes of all time. He’s a guy that’s left us with a lot to talk about.
Here are my memories of the unforgettable T.O.
HE POSED ON THE TEXAS STADIUM STAR– It was the opening month of the 2000 NFL season. After catching a touchdown pass early in the game, San Francisco’s Owens ran to the middle of the Texas Stadium field to celebrate on the star. It was one of the most obnoxious things I’d ever seen. Dallas came back down the field, and Emmitt Smith plunged into the end zone. Emmitt headed to the same place in the center of the turf. He slammed the ball down, turned to the 49er side line and yelled, “this is our house!” I was actually more upset with Smith than Owens. Instead of being proud of Emmitt’s retaliation, I felt like he was adding to a weird circus. I also knew the Cowboys were over matched on this Sunday, and better be quiet. Late in the game, Owens scored again. He ran back to the middle of the field. This time he was greeted by Dallas safety George Teague, who shoved him off the spot. Terrell made sure and got in the pose like he had intended. At that point, T.O. was public enemy number one to Cowboys fans.
HIS PEAK AS AN EAGLE– The Owens, Donovan McNabb thing ended horribly. Before that, Owens peak as a Philadelphia Eagle was something to behold. Terrell’s physical attributes were on full display. His explosion off the line of scrimmage is unmatched to this day. His football IQ, dominance, and his ability to play winning ball were all melting in harmony. His Super Bowl performance, coming off an injury was likely his most impressive feat as professional.
THE SAYING “81 ON A MISSION”– A short time later, Owens became a Dallas Cowboy. Naturally, he was easy to hate until he put on my favorite teams jersey. I then put his jersey on my back. There is a sports hypocrite in all of us. Early in his journey on one of his sound bites, T.O. said the following: “They say Randy Moss is Mr. Clutch? They better look again…81 on a mission!” That saying took over mine and my buddy Jon Brown’s life. It wasn’t just something we said when Owens made a play. We said it for everything. I just woke up, “81 on a mission”. I just got groceries, “81 on a mission.” When we saw Terrell before a 2008 game, you can guess what we yelled to him in unison… “81 on a mission!”
A TIMELY CHANT FROM THE CROWD– October 5th, 2008. The Cincinnati Bengals were in Dallas to play the Cowboys. It was a competitive game. I was in the stands with Jon Brown, Anthony Mower, Tyler and Randall Pettit. Late in the third quarter this fan in front of us starting chanting “T.O… T.O…T.O…” It was a little random. The fourth quarter started and it was obvious what Dallas needed WAS a play from Owens. There was twelve minutes left in the fourth quarter. I decided the annoying guy was right. If you can’t beat em, join em. As loud as we could we chanted “T.O… T.O….” I’d guess we got about 600 people to join us during a time out. On the very next play, Owens caught a 57 yard TD pass from Tony Romo. Dallas eventually won the game, True or not, we felt like we did our part.
A SAYING THAT I TOOK TO HEART– On his episode of “A Football Life” T.O. said one of the coolest things ever. “You got to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.” I love it, and try to live it.
EVEN WHEN HE WAS SINCERE, HE WAS CRITICIZED– January 13th, 2008. The 13-3 Cowboys lost a playoff game against the eventual world champion New York Giants. Owens felt Romo was the one being blamed. In a sincere, tear filled defense T.O. said, “You can point the finger at him. You can talk about the vacation. If you do, it’s really unfair. That’s my teammate. That’s my quarterback. If you do that, that’s unfair. We lost as a team.” I thought that was the most genuine moment of his NFL life. Instead of getting credit for his team first attitude, Owens has been clowned for it ever since.
NOT ATTENDING HIS OWN HALL OF FAME ENSHRINEMENT– Everyone knows Terrell Owens is a Hall of Fame player. It’s not about the incredible numbers. It was about his level. He was a work ethic guy, and a bionic force. I’m a Hall of Fame nerd. I love the process, the arguments, and the induction speeches that come along with it. I’m very disappointed that Owens has decided to not go to Canton Ohio this August. He will speak at his alma mater, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This has been scheduled on the same day (August 4th) that the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be conducting their ceremony.
I thought Owens should have been elected into the Hall in his first or second year of eligibility. When year three came, he was voted in. He has the right to be mad, and to not show up in Canton. Owens told Eric Dickerson last week he would have attended if he made it on the first ballot. There have been many players near Owens level who had to wait much longer. The process is flawed. Cris Carter put it, “he thinks his tears are more important than the other guys.”
I reached out to a mentor, Derrick Pearson a couple of weeks ago to rant. DP said to me, “So, you are sensitive that he is sensitive?” That comment threw me off. I then said, “yes. If I’m sensitive about his choices, I get Owens is someone who has made it in life.” Terrell is one of the most important characters in the games history. He has the right to do what he wants, and I have the right to be bugged by it. What he says next month matters. I want his Hall of Fame peers to know he DOES respect them. This is not a daring, pioneer like move by Terrell by skipping out. He felt insulted by having to wait for this honor. Perception wise, this cements T.O. as the greatest individual, in a sport built on the idea of team.
The only offended people that should matter, are those that have gold jackets themselves. It’s like Terrell gets one more game this August. I bet he says some things that help me see his side of things. The selfish fan in me, wishes he would celebrate with the class of 2018. On a day he will be king of a league he dominated, he could be starring on their stage one more time. Terrell Owens will live in the Pro Football Hall of Fame forever. I wanted to see him there on the day he gets the keys to the place.
Jay C. Brandriet