Skip to main content

Terrell Owens' Unorthodox Road to NFL Stardom and His Surprise at His Own Success

Who would've thought an under-recruited kid out of Alexander City, Ala., would become one of the most prolific wide receivers to ever play the game? Well, Terrell Owens sure didn't.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Owens would become the 28th inductee into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Steve Young, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh and the other distinguished franchise greats. The whole thing is a bit surreal to Owens, who never imagined producing a historic 15-year NFL career, eight seasons of which were spent in the Bay Area.

"It's fascinating with what I've been able to accomplish with so little coming out of Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City, Alabama in 1993," Owens told reporters via a conference call on Wednesday afternoon following the announcement.

Owens grew up a two-sport athlete with his sights set on pursing basketball. However, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he broke several school records in football and earned first-team All-Southern Conference honors. As a small-school prospect, Owens went largely under the radar leading up to the 1996 NFL Draft.

The 49ers drafted Owens in the third round with the 89th-overall pick. He appeared in 121 games with the 49ers and still ranks second in franchise history with 592 catches, 8,572 receiving yards and 81 touchdowns. He also added 21 rushing attempts for 162 yards and two touchdowns during his eight seasons in San Francisco. He went on to make four Pro Bowls and earned three First-Team All-Pro selections. For his entire career, Owens made six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro five times.

"I never thought I would have played beyond the collegiate level," Owens said. "I didn't have your typical great collegiate career. When you look back on the number of guys that came out of that draft with me, I came out with the likes of Mercury Hayes, Amani Toomer, Derrick Mayes, Keyshawn Johnson (and) Alex Van Dyke. All these guys that were so much better than I was. You would've thought that these guys would have a tremendous upside and been more successful than a kid that barely got recruited coming into Chattanooga."

As one of the leagues most legendary wide receivers, Owens currently owns the third most receiving yards (15,934) and receiving touchdowns (153) in NFL history.

To complement his gold jacket where he will forever be immortalized with his recent induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Owens will now don a red coat, signifying his unprecedented contributions to the 49ers organization and essence of the franchise. He'll also have a life-size statue that will forever live in the 49ers museum alongside the other 27 inductees into the franchise's Hall of Fame.

"I was hoping that I was one of those guys (the fans) looked forward to seeing play every Sunday," Owens said. "It was a mutual thing because I couldn't wait to get on the field to really display and really represent that scarlet and gold every Sunday (or) Monday or whenever we played.

"That's why I played as hard as I did."

The festivities surrounding Owens' induction will take place during alumni weekend this upcoming season. San Francisco will announce which 2019 regular season home game that will be in the coming months.