Terrell Owens is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game of football. With that said, there were many greats before him, and many that will follow after him. One of them is on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster now. And the truth is that many of his NFL ‘firsts’ were for off-field matters than on the field. He was great at doing what others had already done on the field, but he set himself into a new class with his off-field antics.
So it shouldn’t be any surprise that he is continuing his streak of off-field firsts in the final leg of his football journey. Owens was rightfully awarded enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the class of 2018 (though it should have come at least a year earlier), and he recently chose to decline the invitation to the induction ceremony.
Just to be clear, that has nothing to do with him actually being inducted. He is still going to get his bust. He is still a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. None of that changes. But frankly, he’s just showing why voters likely balked on voting him in.
While much of his statement that he released was pretty gracious, there are moments that stand out, as when he writes, “I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the ceremony in Canton”, though he said that he had already informed the Hall about that decision.
“After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere”, he writes. “At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction”.
The Hall wasn’t thrilled about it, unsurprisingly, with David Baker saying that they were “disappointed” by the “unprecedented” decision, but that they would make no further comments about it so as not to detract from the honor bestowed upon the rest of the class, which includes fellow great wide receiver Randy Moss.
One would probably be inclined to wonder if they could have avoided this situation if they had done, in my mind, the right thing by voting him in a year or two earlier. Owens was more than ready to be a full participant in everything had he been elected a year ago. This year, he did not even go to Canton to be on-hand when the class was informed after being spurned twice.
Think what you want about Owens, especially as an individual, but nobody can deny his exceptional on-field prowess. He caught 1078 passes the course of a 15-year career for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns. Those are first-ballot numbers. Moss was a first-ballot addition; Owens should have been as well, and failing that, at least in his second year.
Of course, he still wants to play football. One might wonder if this odd choice has anything to do with that.