Tuesday, February 3, 2009
"I want to be like Jeff Owens"
I found this article while I was searching the web for articles on my injury, at the beginning of the 2008 season. I do not know who wrote this article, but I want to give them credit for their work. I found this article at the Battle Hymn Notes website.
When Jeff Owens hit the turf and clutched his right knee half way through the first quarter on Saturday, my Dad and I simply looked at each other and didn’t say a word. We both knew. The fact that Owens immediately took off his helmet as soon as he hit the ground communicated to the Sanford faithful that this was no simple knee sprain. Dad and I continued to stand in silence, hoping for the best. As Owens rose to his feet and limped off the field, Dad muttered under his breath, “Well, at least he’s walking.” Dad’s observation didn’t make me feel better. I know enough to know that you have to do more than walk to play SEC football. I immediately had flashbacks to Gerry Bertier’s car wreck in Remember the Titans and secretly hoped his buddy Julius would run out of the locker room and start the “left side, strong side” chant with Jeff to make me feel better, but nothing happened. Regardless, Jeff Owens is one of the team’s senior leaders, and watching him hobble into the tunnel after long moments of excruciating pain only made the day just feel hotter and longer than before.
Later that evening, WSB began to report that Owens was lost for the year. Nothing official would be announced until the MRI was done of course, but all indications pointed towards a medical redshirt. After informing Dad that Owens had been lost, he slumped his shoulders and had to take a moment and sit down. I did the same. I immediately began to think of who would replace Jeff in the middle of our line and how the team would fare without him. Corvey Irvin came to mind largely because of his position on the depth chart and because he also played extremely well last Saturday. And as I remembered how the entire defensive unit crowded around Jeff on the field with genuine concern, I began to worry about team morale. I began to think, like many of you, that the team had been dealt a huge blow that may never be overcome. But after reading the interviews from several players, coaches, and from Owens himself, I realized something: I want to be like Jeff Owens.
After reading stories like this, I started to see how Owens attitude and character has affected this team. From what has been said, every player on this team likes Jeff Owens. You almost get the sense that Jeff is like the big brother to every young guy and the wiser, more mature best friend to his peers. Reports have already surfaced that Corvey Irvin has asked to wear Owens’ #95 jersey this week in honor of him. But not only that, the entire defensive line has expressed interest in alternating the responsibility of donning Owens’ number as a way to honor him on the field every single game.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to be honored by your peers than this. Owens is a guy that has done absolutely everything the coaches have asked him to do, and all along has developed into one of the team’s strongest leaders and most dynamic personalties. Yet, in one fell swoop, it appeared that Owens would not be able to contribute for his team amidst a potentially historic season. He has every reason to be upset, frustrated, mad, confused, and bitter. But because of his positive attitude that he has exuded in the aftermath of his misfortune, Jeff Owens has potentially contributed something far more important and intangible than he could ever do on the field – the importance of selflessness. He is demonstrating to his team that in light of all the accolades, all the press, all the publicity, and all the preseason hype, one thing must remain: the willingness to play for each other. For his teammates to recognize that example and then ask to wear his jersey simply could be the highest honor Owens has received maybe in his whole life. I want to be like that.
Losing Owens will be big for the Dawgs and the coaches and players have made no attempt to try and cover that up. But having Jeff show the rest of the players through his injury what it means to fight adversity, to stay focused, and to truly Finish the Drill may be more valuable than anything he could contribute on the field. The Dawgs are a very talented team, but anyone will tell you talent alone does not win championships. There must be leadership, discipline, selflessness, and a commitment to team. To win the respect of your peers at the highest level and to have them honor you in such a way that exudes respect, shows that Owens’ teammates want to be known by the same things that Owens is known - the very things that win championships.
I want to be like Jeff Owens.