Chad Owens' route to becoming the top professional football player in the Canadian Football League (CFL) was rather circuitous. His story is one of overcoming obstacles, defying perceptions, curing mistakes and suffering good old-fashioned bad luck.
Owens received the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award last week after helping his team, the Toronto Argonauts, win the 100th Grey Cup before their home fans. The Football Reporters of Canada decide who receives the award.
This 2012 season was Owens' eighth professional season—but only his third as a full-timer. Before becoming a full-time player, he bounced around from team to team, mostly playing on practice squads. However, regardless of the obstacle—and there were plenty of obstacles—the former University of Hawaii wide receiver marched on.
(Did you hear that Taylor Graham joined the University of Hawaii Warrior squad?)
Chad Owens was born prematurely, weighing only three pounds at birth. Now a 5'7", 180-pound man, he is no stranger to battling size discrepancies. Despite his size limitations, Owens clearly had talent. In 2005, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted him in the sixth round. The wide receiver showed promise; however, fumbles at critical times derailed his NFL career.
After parting ways with the Jaguars, in 2008 Owens tried the Arena Football League. He injured his knee before his team, the Colorado Crush, folded. In 2009, he found his way to Montreal.
He quickly earned a position on the Montreal Alouettes practice roster, only to be traded to Toronto in 2010. By the end of the year, as a result of his hard work and dedication, Owens earned the CFL's most outstanding special teams player award. His resolve and tenacity pushed him further in 2011, when he led the league in all-purpose yards. He also became the first professional football player to put together back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons.
This year, he pressed even harder, setting a CFL record with over 3,800 all-purpose yards. At the end of the season, Owens was battling on through injury. Even with torn ligaments in his left thumb, he kept racking up yards. His tenacity continued into the playoffs, where he played with a cast on his left hand.
Beginning the season with a list of personal goals, Owens proudly achieved them. Amazingly, in just three seasons, he rose to second all-time in punt returns and kickoff returns for the Argonauts. His inspiring story teaches young athletes that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Photo: Calgary Herald