HOF Preview: T.O. learned valuable lessons from his grandma

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2004, file photo, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens (81) pulls in a 50-yard touchdown pass in front of Dallas Cowboys defenders Nathan Jones (33) and Tony Dixon (24) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Irving, Texas. Owens is skipping his induction ceremony into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, and instead giving his acceptance speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Terrell Owens learned a valuable lesson at a young age from the most influential person in his life.

”I’ve always listened and learned a lot from my grandmother and how she lived her life and how she wanted me to live my life,” Owens told The Associated Press about Alice Black, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. ”No matter what people say about you good, bad or indifferent, you just have to believe in yourself. And when you have belief in the man above, knowing you’re not perfect, the people who walk this Earth aren’t perfect either, and (if) you start to pass judgment and start to believe things about people who you don’t know personally, then that’s really a reflection of yourself.”

Growing up in a poor family in Alabama, Owens had a difficult childhood and he was often lonely. He was raised by his grandmother and his single mother, who spent much of her time working double shifts to support her children.

”Early in my career when I was an adolescent and teenager, I had self-esteem issues,” Owens said. ”I had to get out of that and understand that you have to believe in yourself in order to progress in order to do anything in your life. I’m very proud of how my grandmother raised me.”

Plenty of people have formed strong opinions about Owens, sometimes based on rumors and innuendo. T.O. certainly brought much of the criticism on himself with some of his outlandish behavior, but he believes he was also misunderstood at times. It was easier for critics to pile on than try to understand what made Owens tick.

That’s why Owens believes it took Pro Football Hall of Fame voters three tries to finally get him into the Canton shrine, although he’s not actually going to Ohio. Miffed that he was passed over twice, Owens is skipping the induction ceremony and instead giving his acceptance speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Owens said he visited the hall after his selection and decided he’d rather celebrate the big day at his alma mater.

”I feel the Hall of Fame committee needs to find a better formula and format in which guys get nominated and inducted, because all the hard work we’re doing as players to better our lives, our careers, our fate is in guys’ hands that have never played before,” Owens said, perhaps ignoring that Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and James Lofton are among the voters. ”People not giving me my recognition because a few people have said they didn’t like me. The narrative has been created and portrayed that I was divisive in the locker room and I wasn’t a good person or a bad teammate, but there have been people who have stood on the table for me and said I was a good teammate, a great player. But that’s the narrative they didn’t go with.”

The 44-year-old Owens had a mostly sensational 15-year career playing for San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati. He is second to Jerry Rice in receiving yards and third in touchdown catches behind Rice and Randy Moss, who was chosen in his first year of eligibility.

No. 81 was a five-time All-Pro, a six-time Pro Bowl pick and one of the most entertaining players of his generation. His touchdown celebrations are legendary and no one worked harder to stay in excellent shape. Some think Owens could still play in the NFL; he has toyed with an attempted comeback in the Canadian Football League. He had 72 catches for 983 yards and nine TDs in his final season, in 2010, and finished with 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards receiving and 153 TDs.

Owens was part of eight playoff teams but only reached the Super Bowl once after joining the Eagles in 2004. He gave a heroic performance in Philadelphia’s 24-21 loss to New England, catching nine passes for 122 yards after defying doctor’s orders and returning to play on his surgically repaired ankle 6 1/2 weeks after an operation.

”What I did, it was bigger than the Super Bowl for me,” Owens said. ”I understood the ultimate goal was to win the game and that was heavily on my mind, and I think with my performance, you can tell that was what was on my mind. But coming out of that tunnel for the first time, the media was waiting for me to run around on the field and go through my normal routine like I do before every game just to get a glimpse, see if I was limping, things of that nature on that ankle. Coming out of that tunnel, I wanted people to know my faith in God was the No. 1 reason I was able to do what I did.”

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