Monday, August 6, 2018

Terrell Owens: A Man of Courage and Character Who "Loves Me More"

And on the 317th day, God made Terrell Owens. 
But why, you might ask, did it take God all of 317 days to make the now Hall of Fame wide receiver? I think the more pressing question is why did it take NFL Hall of Fame three years for Owens to be inducted. On Saturday, August 4, 2018, Terrell Eldorado Owens became the 317th member to receive a gold jacket and a bronze bust, that will forever be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. The irony in all of this, however, is that T.O. opted out of that ceremony, only to host his own inside McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee Chatanooga. The presentation began precisely at 3:17 pm.

I did not watch Owen's speech until after I read Terrell Owens — unique, defiant and maybe self-defeating — inducts himself into the Hall of Fame, a thorough and thoughtful article sent to me by my brother. Upon reading this piece from the Washington Post, I was reminded—yet again—when you have people like Terrell Owens, you need not read fiction. 
What an outstanding class. Unfortunate that T.O. was not there to make the mark that only he can with them.
His personal story is remarkable: though I was already familiar with his familial background (at the age of 11 he found out that the man living across the street was his father), I did not know that this six-time Pro Bowl selection was not allowed to play sports until high school. Given the specialization of today's youth sports and that so few D1 athletes play more than one sport (he played both football and basketball at UTC), Owens is that much more of an anomaly. He was teased and bullied because he was gangly with very dark skin; he was once very quiet and shy. The man that most San Francisco 49ers fans know is different: he loves me some me. He stood on the star in Dallas, he celebrated excessively in the end zone—polarizing players / getting penalized and yet he was revered by teammates for his work ethic and was, according to former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, "one of the most coachable guys I've ever had." As a coach, I consider that descriptor the highest of praise. 

The article is worth reading in its entirety as Adam Kilgore addresses the pros and cons, complexity and angles of T.O's choice to accept entry into the Hall of Fame. Please know, however, it will probably leave you with more questions than answers and well, maybe the desire to read more...nonfiction.
When you finish, take a look—and a listen, at his speech (linked here). Owens is undoubtedly the star of his own show. Not many people can pull off a suit like the one he wears: dotted with the NFL Hall of Fame Logo. Replete with his megawatt smile, Owens' quoted MLK, Einstein and even Scripture. As a child, his Grandmama made him read the Bible every night and he chose to read from Deuteronomy 31:6 for "it represents me well," he said. The Word says: Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you. This may have been my favorite moment for it was a true reflection of who he is and what's in his heart. The towel that he kept using to dry his eyes?! Not so much....seriously? a towel?!!

I do believe that Terrell Owens is the man he claims to be: "A man of conviction, a man of faith, a man of humility, a man of character and integrity, charisma, and discipline. A man of courage, one who had the courage to choose Chatanooga over Canton." And yet, I also believe given the huge persona that he has offered the media, the NFL and his fans in a sport that yes, celebrates individuals, but is regarded as the ultimate team sport—he could have said what he said with his classmates, on that field. That's not his way. As he told a fan who yelled: "I Love you!"—he said, "I love me more." 

In my book, I love him for being unabashedly who he is, but as in any good story/novel, we are here to discuss, debate and disagree. No wonder it took 317 days to create this character....

Photo Credits
HoF class

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