In 2018, Terrell Owens became one of the 29 receivers (at that time) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, after being snubbed in previous years for issues unrelated to his performance on the field.
Owens always moved to the beat of his own drum and his relationship with the press (and some teammates) was tumultuous at best. When T.O. was finally elected, in typical fashion he decided to become the first inductee in the museum’s storied history not to attend the ceremony in Canton.
“On August 4, 2018, while fellow 2018 inductees, including Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, and Randy Moss, were delivering speeches in Canton, 600 miles to the south, Owens delivered his own speech to a crowd of 3,000 gathered at McKenzie Arena on the UT-Chattanooga campus.”
T.O. did his own thing and stuck it to the committee as retaliation for the way it snubbed him in previous years.
Despite the drama that still seems to follow T.O. like a fed closing in on a perp, Super Bowl XXXIX played in February of 2005 at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, will always be a highlight of Owens’ rocky but productive career in Philly.
That Super Bowl was a game that Owens – then at the height of his fame and productivity, forming a potent combination with QB Donovan McNabb – remembers all too well.
Seven weeks prior to the game, Owens broke his leg and tore a critical ligament in his right ankle. He needed to get surgery and his surgeon wouldn’t clear him to play in the Super Bowl against the Pats. Owens ignored the doctors and played 62 of 72 offensive snaps, catching nine passes for 122 yards.
It might have been the bravest performance in Super Bowl history. It should have been his shining moment in a glorious career.
“I did whatever I could to win that game. Whatever ounce I had in my body I put it on the line,” Owens said in a radio interview.
Instead, the media highlighted his feud with McNabb, choosing to paint T.O. as the selfish, prima donna villain. It has haunted him ever since.
Owens was eligible for induction since 2016, but apparently, his flamboyance, obsession with the camera, innovative TD celebrations and locker-room riffs with teammates at several NFL stops were the things about him that Hall of Fame voters chose to focus on rather than his lit body of statistics.
In a passionate pow-wow with Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray on WFAN sports radio in New York, back in 2018, T.O. spoke about the way McNabb has also dissed him publicly over the years.
“He was real vague and not so complimentary of me and what I brought to the team, T.O. said. Anybody who knows me, Im not going to fake the funk. I’m not a phony or fake person. I respected him as a man, even when we were going through our situation. I didn’t allow that to deter what I had to do on the football field. I knew what my job is.”
The harbored animosity hit the fan when T.O. said he wasn’t surprised about the sexual harassment allegations levied against McNabb back in 2018. His Twitter finger has found McNabb a few times too.
To true football heads, his decision to risk further injury and financial reward by playing in that Super Bowl is legendary and respected because it’s old school and totally against the grain of today’s thinking.
T.O. spoke about his warrior mindset entering that Super Bowl.
“What I did prior to the Super Bowl…I exercised my faith in God,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like to put that out there but other than obviously putting the team at the forefront of my decision, that’s what I did. I knew that I would never get that opportunity again and I couldn’t put myself in harm’s way if I wasn’t ready but…doctors across the country said it was no way possible I would be walking in 6.5 to 7 weeks let alone do what I did on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s a testament to what I am and who I am as a person.”
But nobody gives T.O. the credit he deserves because Philly lost the game 24-21. It went down as another close Super Bowl win for New England…yaaaawn.
“Even after that game, there were analysts who said I was selfish for wanting to play, T.O. said. “So that should put things into perspective as to how the (media) views me as a person.”
Since that Super Bowl, T.O.s rocky relationship with McNabb and in his time in San Francisco had been the focus when discussing his undeniable Hall of Fame credentials. His reaction to being elected has rubbed some people the wrong way as well.
T.O. told FS1s Undisputed back in March of 2017 that McNabb sparked the drama by telling T.O. to “Shut the f–k up” in a huddle during a game against the Giants. Owens felt disrespected and addressed McNabb in the locker room.
At the time, McNabb was the star QB and a media darling. T.O. was seen as the ultimate diva. A drama king. The guy who really got the ball rolling on the “I love me some me” wide receiver mentality that is pervasive in today’s NFL. Look no further than Odell Beckham. Before T.O. made scoring TDs a 24-hour marketing circus, the wide receiver could never compete with the QB on a star power level.
He elevated the NFL’s popularity and pockets in the process and in a way, he blames McNabb for the way he is perceived.
“Im a product of my environment, T.O. said. When I grew up with my grandmother I didn’t have a lot of people who communicated so I always was to myself. Growing up now and understanding the business aspect of it, maybe I could have taken an extra step to do that (work on relationship with McNabb), but neither one of us was willing to step up to do that.”
Owens will always be an enigma of sorts, but you can’t erase his Super Bowl moment. On that day, he was a “we” guy, no matter how anyone tries to paint it.
“I have no regrets,” T.O. said. “The way that my grandma raised me…she would be proud of who I am. You have no rap sheet on Terrell Owens. If you want to say that I divided some locker rooms and had some disagreements or a few arguments with some coaches here and there, what great player hasn’t? If that’s your only knock on Terrell Owens so be it. One thing you won’t find is any DUIs, domestic violence or criminal records,” Owens said hinting at some of McNabb’s past transgressions.
And 17 Super Bowls later the T.O.-McNabb feud is still one of the best and most productive in NFL history.