Off-the-field antics recently outweighed significant productivity when it came to voters judging Terrell Owens in his first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga receiver offers no regrets from his playing days in the NFL.
The way Owens sees it, he was a little like Cam Newton before Newton became known.
"I wouldn't take any of it back, because that's what made me who I am and who I was on the football field," Owens said. "I was a guy who had fun. I'm not perfect. I've made some mistakes and some poor decisions, but you can look at me going to the star in Dallas, and that's when things started to spiral out of control.
"I became a target, because before that, nothing was ever said about Terrell Owens. It got to the point where I would celebrate, and people wouldn't know how to assess what I was doing. I became a target, and anything I did or said became a headline."
Owens, a guest this past week on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM, was denied Hall of Fame induction earlier this month despite amassing 15,934 yards during his 15-year NFL career that ended in 2010. That ranks second all-time to Jerry Rice (22,895), and his 153 touchdown receptions are third in NFL history behind Rice (197) and Randy Moss (156).
Former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, who ranks seventh all-time with 14,580 yards, was among the eight newest inductees.
"The Hall of Fame is about people with great stats and great accolades and what they've done between the lines," said former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, who had more than 11,000 yards in his career but was viewed as a lightning rod as well. "That's what the Hall of Fame should be about, and T.O. should have been in before they even had the induction."
Obviously that was not the unanimous sentiment.
Gary Myers of the New York Daily News believes Owens was denied due to his locker room behavior. In a recent interview on Fox's "Dan Patrick Show," Myers explained that Hall of Fame voters decided that what transpires in a locker room is an extension of the field of play.
"He tore teams apart," Myers said. "He's a Hall of Fame player that five teams couldn't wait to get rid of."
Owens celebrating a touchdown in Dallas by running to the midfield star in September 2000 was followed by other polarizing antics, including pulling out a Sharpie to autograph the ball after a score against Seattle in October 2002. Those occurred during his stint with the San Francisco 49ers, but by 2005 he was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles — and routinely blasting quarterback Donovan McNabb and calling the organization "classless" for not honoring his 100th career score.
The Eagles suspended Owens for four games that season, which led to the infamous news conference he conducted while doing situps in his driveway.
"There hasn't really been a reaction of disappointment, because I kind of know how the process works," said Owens, who also played for the Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. "A lot of other people have expressed their displeasure and have called the process flawed, but for me, I guess I feel more disrespected than I do disappointed. There are a number of people in the Hall of Fame with character issues and far more character issues than I have when it comes to stuff off the field."
Former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre ranks second all-time in passing yardage — slipping behind Peyton Manning this past season — and recently was announced as a Hall of Fame inductee during his inaugural opportunity. Favre was fined $50,000 by the NFL in 2010 for failing to cooperate with a league investigation that tried to determine whether he had sent lewd personal photographs in 2008 to New York Jets television reporter Jenn Sterger. Forensic analysis failed to link Favre to the photos.
Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was suspended by the league multiple times for failed drug tests but was inducted during his inaugural opportunity in 1999.
This time next year, Owens will know whether Hall of Fame voters provided better news the second time around.
"My numbers speak for themselves, and if you look at the Hall of Fame, that's what it's about," he said. "It should have been a no-brainer."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.