Why Terrell Owens is a First-Ballot Hall of Famer


Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens recently announced that he will retire if he doesn’t sign with a team this year. It is truly a shame how his career has come to an end.

There are many reasons for people to be either for or against Owens as a first ballot Hall of Fame player.

Let’s first take a look at his All Time rank in a few receiving categories:

  • Fifth all-time in touchdowns behind Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomilson and Randy Moss (153 TDs)
  • Sixth all-time in receptions behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez, Marvin Harrison, Chris Carter and Time Brown (1078 rec)
  • Second all-time in receiving yards behind only Jerry Rice (15,934 yds)

Stats don’t tell the whole story though. Owens was a first team All-Pro receiver five times in his career. Many people rank Owens and Randy Moss as the top two receivers from the 2000s, and he is clearly one of the best two or three receivers from his era.

Owens was able to attack defenses in many ways. He had the downfield speed to beat cornerbacks deep on nine routes and posts. He had the strength to catch a short pass, break tackles and generate plenty of yards after the catch. He also was a dangerous weapon on reverses.

There really was not any route in the tree that Owens was not a threat to score on. Take a look at this collection of plays by Owens:

There are not many receivers in the history of the game that have the ability to generate the amount of yards after the catch that Owens was able to. At 6’3″ 224 pounds, Owens was a very unique blend of size, strength and speed. Last year at the ripe age of 38 years old, Owens ran a 4.45 forty yard dash.

When he played, he brought a hungry and determined attitude to the wide receiver position. Each time Owens touched the ball, it was obvious that he had a desire to take it to the house.

Another thing that Owens brought to the table was his ability to block downfield for his running backs. Watch his blocking in this game-winning overtime run by Garison Hearst.

Unfortunately, from time to time, Owens’ need to speak his mind got in the way of how people perceived him as a player. The outspoken nature that Owens has was ingrained in him by his grandmother, which Owens said in his two books, Catch This and T.O.

This brash attitude rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way sometimes. As a result, the media scrutinized him and labeled him a locker room divider.

It is interesting how most of his former teammates talk about him in a rather positive light while only a few will take shots at him. All wide receivers from time to time have run-ins with their quarterbacks, but the ones that T.O. had with Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb seemed to reach a different level. It’s too bad that this will have a large influence on the perception of what kind of teammate Owens was.

The media scrutiny will surely have an influence on whether or not T.O. is a first ballot Hall of Fame player. Each year there is a presenter for the players that are up for election. These presenters are typically from a particular region that is associated with the player. San Francisco will definitely be one of the regions, but one has to wonder if Dallas or Philadelphia will be among the others. Unfortunately, Owens left each city on what can be looked upon as bad terms. Hopefully, this will not affect his entrance into Canton.

Also, many people did not know how Owens did a lot to create more awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. His grandmother, one of the most influential people in his life, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1996. (See for yourself here: Terrell Owens Tackles Alzheimer’s Disease)

Owens also raised money to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. (Here is an article on his efforts: T.O. To Auction NFC Championship Ring for Katrina Relief)

At the end of the day, there were surely some good things that T.O. did and there were some bad things. Nobody is perfect. On the field, there are few players in his era that were as good as TO.

The ability that we see in his highlights and his statistics show that. The courage that he showed by playing in the Super Bowl with a severe ankle injury is a testament to the man that Owens is. He not only played in that Super Bowl, he had nine catches for 122 yards. His injury was so severe that he had to sign an insurance waiver with the Philadelphia Eagles prior to playing in the Super Bowl.

It is my hope that the Hall of Fame voters will be able to put the shortcomings of Terrell Owens aside and vote based off of his stellar play on the football field. Owens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and based off of his play, he should be a first-ballot vote in. I will surely make the trip to Canton, Ohio when Owens, one of my all-time favorite players, is enshrined.

If I were a presenter, the first thing I would start my Owens presentation with is this: