Jordan's Rants
6/8/13: What Could Have Been?
Here's another one you hear all the time:

"Terrell Owens could have been one of the greatest ever, but he blew it with his big mouth. If only..."

If only what?

There is this moronic idea that pervades the online sports world that Owens somehow "wasted" something. That his 15-year career - a career in which he is currently second in NFL history in receiving yards and third in history in receiving touchdowns - somehow could have been even more successful if he'd done something differently. You know what's funny? The person who exaggerates Owens's abilities the most is not Terrell Owens himself, but rather the typical media-regurgitating lemming with an irrational hatred for Owens that he developed despite never having even met the man.

This is the person who idiotically believes in "karmic retribution" and, distraught over the fact that Owens has had an undeniably successful career, tries to reinterpret Owens's career as some sort of "tragedy" to make himself feel better. But how do you do this when the guy put together a legendary, Hall of Fame career?

Why, talk about him as though he should have been football's answer to Michael Jordan, that's how. Pretend he was some jerk who was born lucky and underachieved.

These types of people act as though Owens was sprinkled with some sort of magic athlete dust and just did things effortlessly. He was just born with it, they think. It was innate.

That's strange. For a guy who apparently wasted so much talent, he sure didn't receive so much attention from NFL scouts. Let's have a look at the top 30 in NFL history in terms of receiving yards, and let's take a look at where they went in the draft.

Jerry Rice - 16 (1st round)
Terrell Owens - 89 (3rd)
Randy Moss - 21 (1st)
Isaac Bruce - 33 (2nd)
Tim Brown - 6 (1st)
Marvin Harrison - 19 (1st)
Tony Gonzalez - 13 (1st)
James Lofton - 6 (1st)
Cris Carter - 3rd pick in supplemental draft
Henry Ellard - 32 (2nd)
Torry Holt - 6 (1st)
Andre Reed - 86 (4th)
Steve Largent - 117 (4th)
Reggie Wayne - 30 (1st)
Irving Fryar - 1 (1st)
Art Monk - 18 (1st)
Jimmy Smith - 36 (2nd)
Charlie Joiner - 93 (4th)
Hines Ward - 92 (3rd)
Derrick Mason - 98 (4th)
Michael Irvin - 11 (1st)
Don Maynard - 109 (9th)
Steve Smith - 74 (3rd)
Muhsin Muhammad - 43 (2nd)
Rod Smith - UDFA
Keenan McCardell - 326 (12th)
Andre Johnson - 3 (1st)
Chad Johnson - 36 (2nd)
Joey Galloway - 8 (1st)
Gary Clark - 55 (2nd)

Of the top 30 players in career receiving yards in NFL history, 21 of them went higher in their draft class than Terrell Owens. Cris Carter would have gone higher than Owens as well in his class had he been eligible (was suspended his senior year at Ohio State). It should also be noted that Randy Moss would have been a Top 5 pick if not for off-field incidents. Despite all that surrounding him, he still went 21st overall.

Aside from Carter and his special circumstances, Owens was by far and away the latest-selected player to hold a place in the NFL's top 10 career receiving yards list. He was the 12th receiver taken in his own draft class.

But they don't want you to know that. They don't want you to know that Terrell Owens is actually a small town rags-to-riches story, virtually unrecruited out of high school. A division 1-AA diamond-in-the-rough.

Why not?

Well, because that doesn't fit with the image they created for him. They want you to see him as some bratty "diva" who had everything handed to him on a silver platter, not a low key, hard working guy who merely liked imitating athletes he admired in on-field demeanor. They never wanted to separate "Terrell Owens, the performer on the field" from, "Terrell Owens, the man." To them, showy touchdown celebrations meant he's that way in every day life. It must mean he's "spoiled."

Now, if you had told someone involved with football on any level in 1996, "you know, I think Terrell Owens has a chance to be even better than Jerry Rice," you know how they would have replied?

"OK, I think you're getting a tad bit carried away here. I think Terrell Owens has a chance to be a good NFL receiver one day, and he's having a good camp. But make no mistake about it - he's a project."

Owens exceeded all expectations by a country mile.

He didn't start out a national phenomenon. He wasn't Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson. The truth of the matter is he didn't even have the hype surrounding him that Jerry Rice had coming into the league. Despite the sob stories alleging "Rice didn't have the most talent, but the guy worked so hard," the reality is he had big expectations placed upon him when the 49ers traded up to draft him 16th overall in 1985. Rice, like Owens, was a small school guy (Mississippi Valley State), but he was a small school record setter who was on the national radar. Owens was known only by those who followed his conference. He was a guy whose stock rose at the senior bowl when he showed he could hang with the other receivers in the draft class.

How did this small town unknown go on to be one of the greatest receivers to ever play professional football?

For starters, he hit the weight room like his life depended on it. If Owens had any other mindset, he never would have sniffed the NFL. He would have remained tall, thin, and unnoticed, as he was when he played in high school. He likely would have given up on football, especially since it was basketball that was (and still is) his true passion. But he was driven to succeed, and he took to heart advice he'd received that any success he would have in athletics would start in the weight room.

Transforming into what he became also required an impressive amount of discipline. To develop the physique people marvel over, he had to make certain sacrifices. It was after he reached the NFL that he decided to adhere to a strict diet. This meant that if they were serving pizza on a team flight, Owens starved. This meant grilled chicken and egg whites as the staples of his diet during the season. This means if Jeff Garcia offers you one of his 50 beers during the week leading up to the game, you politely decline.

Terrell Owens's physique is not innate. He didn't just roll out of bed one morning in that kind of shape. What it is is a reflection of how far he was willing to go to reach his potential. He's a self-made athlete, not some lucky freak of nature.

Moreover, as Steve Young would be the first to attest to, Owens practiced as hard as he played. As hard as Rice worked, Owens worked every bit as hard. When Owens first arrived in San Francisco, like a lot of rookies, he was raw. His routes needed work, he had various technical flaws, and he needed to learn the 49ers' complex offense.

How did it go?

By week 8 of his rookie season, in part due to an injury to J.J. Stokes, he was in the starting lineup, immediately making an impact. The team's offense came alive down the stretch, and Owens was a big reason why. And following the immediate success, Owens continued to work. Gradually, he became the lethal weapon people now remember him as.

Along the way, he set records and was a part of a lot of victories. Tons of them. He played in a Super Bowl with screws in his ankle on a team that came one drive away from winning it all. He now has the same number of rings as Barry Sanders, Dick Butkus, Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson, Steve Largent, Kellen Winslow, Anthony Munoz, Bruce Smith, and numerous other all-time greats.

But you have to remember, it's all his fault he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring. Remember, Owens's problem is apparently that he doesn't realize it's a team game. But when it comes to his team winning the Super Bowl or not, then it's all on him. Then it's his fault.

Make sense?
Posted on Jun 08 2013 by Jordan Taber
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