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Photography Assistant: Ryan Kobane Golf Clothes, Golf Shoes & Golf Equipment provided by - Callaway Golf Suit Jacket, Dress Shirt & Dress Pants provided by - Eredi Pisano’ USA INC Furniture provided by – Broadway Office Furniture T.O. Show Images - VH1 Alzheimer Event Images – Alzheimer’s Association Football Images - Buffalo Bills Media Relations Department

50 December 48 December 2009 2009

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After 14 years of being misunderstood by teammates, fans and the general public, Terrell Owens sits down and opens up to the one person who knows him best—himself. The Green Magazine

By Laurence Bass III P hotography by M yko P hotography Inc. December December2009 2009 49 51


A

nxious production assistants line the corridor leading to the green rooms of the Wendy Williams Show. Every five minutes, one is told by a producer to ensure that the scheduled guests are prepared for their ten-minute interview with the nationally syndicated, selfproclaimed “Queen of All Media”. Mike Epps has transformed his green room into a Tuesday morning stand-up routine equipped with the heightened laughter from his entourage. Tanedra Howard runs her cue-carded introduction for Wendy and rehearses the blood-curdling scream that made her one of the mutilated victims in the demented thriller SAW VI. Amidst this juxtaposition of comedy and carnage, a producer quietly interrogates one of the assistants in front of the door of the last green room.

The conversation has nothing to do with the cornucopia of tropical fruit on the coffee table, the gift bag teeming with high-end novelties or the accompanying handwritten thank you note from Williams. It has everything to do with who is not in the room enjoying these spoils. The dialogue becomes louder and then takes a dramatic pause when the television in that very room shows that the Wendy Williams Show is being recorded in front of a live studio 56 February 2010

audience. Finally, after muttering some choice words to herself and her watch, the producer verbalizes what everyone backstage is wondering—“Where’s T.O.?” The highly anticipated arrival of Terrell Owens occurs just as Williams divulges her opinion of Lady Gaga’s “artistic genius” and Susan Boyle’s need for moisturizer. Though he is nearly 45 minutes late, due to Manhattan morning traffic, Owens casually waltzes through the air of tension thegreenmagazine.com

“The best thing about being in Buffalo is being a Buffalo Bill,” Owens says. “The fans there are ride or die no matter what. You know fans are passionate when it’s below zero with snow and the stands are still packed. That just shows you the love they have for their city and team.” looming backstage. There is no sign of his bodyguard Pablo guiding Owens through a sea of fans or his publicists Monique and Kita inspecting and deflecting every pair of mascara-brushed eyelashes batted at their client. He is alone. Carrying only his Blackberry and donning that multi-million dollar smile. He has time for a quick preview of questions from the producers followed by a very comedic greeting from the neighboring Epps.

“We’re ready for you, Terrell,” a hurried assistant says while beckoning Owens to follow her and leave his Blackberry on the green room’s desk. The show comes back from its commercial break. Wendy Williams finishes clapping along with her audience to the piped-in theme music. Once the music dies down, Williams introduces her first guest in the fashion of the neighborhood girl to whom LL Cool J once alluded—minus the two

pair of bamboo earrings. “Ladies, please welcome the very fawine Terrell Owens!” Upon his entrance, Owens is showered with cheers and catcalls from a mosaic of women. This is not the normal reception given to a football player. The guttural chants and shouts typically coming from out-of-shape, middle-aged men decorated with team face paint—chugging the first of many concession stand beers—are signs of admiration given to most NFL The Green Magazine

superstars. However, for Owens, this new form of appreciation is welcomed. “It’s just a different kind of love that I’ve received besides the football fan base,” Owens says while taking a break from Tweeting to his 231,654 followers via Blackberry. “Seeing all the women in the audience just means that I’ve reached out to a new genre of fans and I’m very appreciative of that. For nearly 14 years, I’ve always tried to explain myself. People February 2010 57


“(From L to R): Terrell Owens, Monique Jackson and Kita Williams.”

58 February 2010

had a platform to tell the real story versus the edited versions of what you see on ESPN highlights.” Both Jackson and Williams are ensuring that Owens’ success eclipses the allotted 15 minutes. Already picked up for a second season, The T.O. Show follows Owens on his day-to-day life away from the field and offers viewers a unique and candid side of the game-breaking wide receiver. As Owens’ expansive persona continues to become highly marketable via reality television, Twitter and revealing billboards,

he is progressively losing ground with a more familiar demographic. Two days before Owens sat on the plush, beige couch and made the usually silvertongued Wendy Williams stumble over her prepared questions, he went head-tohead against the Rex Ryan-orchestrated New York Jets Gang Green Defense. There was no warm, flowery greeting awaiting Owens and his fellow Buffalo Bills in the Week 6 contest at The Meadowlands. Jeers rained down from the hecklers in the nosebleed seats and those behind

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have heard things about me being a jerk, a moron or however they want to describe me. Once they get to see that I’m a laid back and reserved guy off the field, they can separate that from the competitive side they see of me on the field.” The reason behind Owens’ newly expansive audience is VH1’s newest reality juggernaut—The T.O. Show. “Our whole objective was to make Terrell more human and not just this phenomenal football player on the field,” says Monique Jackson, Co-Executive Producer of The T.O. Show. “We wanted to introduce the world to Terrell Owens and not just T.O.” Owens is one of the most intriguing personalities in NFL history, but many executives (including those at Bravo and E!) were hesitant to embark on the reality television series. According to Kita Williams, Co-Executive Producer of The T.O. Show, VH1 was the prime choice for one simple reason. “The one thing we wanted to make sure we had was complete control over the appearance of the show,” says Williams. “Yes, it is reality television, but a lot of people had a negative image of Terrell. So our goal, for him, was to expand his brand. Ultimately, we wanted to make sure we

“Our whole objective was to make

Terrell more human and not just this phenomenal football player on the field,” says monique jackson, owens’ publicist and co-executive producer of the t.o. show.

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February 2010 59


Terrell Owens celebrates after catching a 43-yard touchdown pass, from Bills’ Quarterback Trent Edwards, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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perception is reality. Owens’ meager tally of three catches for 13 yards and no touchdowns versus the Jets only suggests to detractors that his star is fading fast. At the six week mark of the season, Owens amassed 15 receptions for 215 yards that culminated in one gilded trip to the end zone. For the first time since the inception of fantasy football, his stock is on a steady decline. The vast universe of sports blogs flooding the Internet echoed the same opinion regarding his statistical anomaly—off the field fame is the distraction. Owens remained unflappable while under fire from his printed naysayers and armchair quarterbacks. Even as Tuesday morning’s rumors of a possible mid-season trade signal his early departure from the Bills, his rhetoric conveys that football is the primary objective. “Since coming to Buffalo, my life has thegreenmagazine.com

been home-practice-work out-practicehome,” Owens says with a slight sigh. “I’m not really concerned with the nightlife [of Buffalo] or anything. I’m there to do a job and that’s to help get this team to the playoffs.” Enduring the slings and arrows that come with being the newly acquired superstar on a losing team carries with it a different stress. The demand to play at your apex every Sunday is realized in the week of daunting preparation. Owens’ rigorous schedule is what keeps him in top form on the field, but can those same attributes translate into victory on the fairway? “I played a couple of scramble games, but that’s about it,” says Owens observing the golf equipment being set up for the TGM photo shoot. After receiving instruction from our on-site golf professionals, Owens picked up vital pointers on how to strengthen his swing and

better his stance. If nothing else, he now has something to do during the off season when the courses of Buffalo finally thaw in the spring. It’s no question that Owens’ change of scenery has forced him to alter how he spends his leisure time. West Chippewa Street pails in comparison to the allure of the Sunset Strip. Sunbathers are more likely to catch hypothermia than a South Beach-style tan at Niagara Falls. His type of nightlife and sense of style may come off a little too red carpet for this blue-collar town, but there is one truth which Owens and the people of Buffalo can agree. “The best thing about being in Buffalo is being a Buffalo Bill,” Owens says. “The fans there are ride or die no matter what. You know fans are passionate when it’s below zero with snow and the stands are still packed. That just shows you the love

they have for their city and team.” In a city where Scott Norwood’s name is synonymous with the phrase “wide right” it has been more than a labor of love for the Bills’ faithful. Four straight years of

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the visitors’ bench. In previous seasons, Owens graciously played the role of the grinning villain to opposing crowds before erasing the defensive coordinator’s scheme en route to the end zone. Now, he favors a humbled man barely able to get in tune with the rest of the offense. “I feel like I’m still the same player,” Owens protests. “The numbers aren’t where they need to be. It’s tough when defensive coordinators double team and focus on taking me out of the game. It puts more pressure on Trent [Edwards] to get the ball elsewhere. Given the right situation, scheme and being utilized like I was in the past, then obviously my numbers would be up.” The Bills rallied in overtime to eke past the Jets with a 16-13 victory, but the final score was not the only number analyzed. In the critical arena of football fandom,

“Only God knows. I’m not really looking any further. Just trying to go with the flow of this year

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and see where I land next year.” Super Bowl futility would make other fans begrudgingly change allegiance, but this is Buffalo. Ralph Wilson, the ageless patriarch of Buffalo Bills’ football since its humble AFL beginnings, is the bedrock and the fans’ undying dedication to The Green Magazine

every game played at Orchard Park is the pastime. Here, the tradition is the game. If there is anyone who understands this creed, it’s Terrell Owens. Behind his crushing downfield run blocking, the offenses of his previous teams enjoyed the success of producing multiple 1,000 yard rushers. His last second, prevent-defense splitting touchdown over the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 NFC Wild Card game is an indelible moment in Bay Area folklore. Owens’ valor on the field of play is never in question. He led the Eagles, on one good leg, against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX finishing the game with nine receptions for 122 yards albeit in a losing effort. As the Dallas media tried to place the ‘Danny White’ tag on Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo after a home playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2007, Owens tearfully defended the play and honor of his targeted associate. However, along with the dazzling array of skills comes what many label as the spectacle. The running critique from players, coaches and the droves of opinionated fans that follow the NFL is that having Terrell Owens on your team is a gift and a curse. Blessed with a towering 6’3, 223-pound frame and track star speed, Terrell Owens changes the game just by lining up across from the series of diminutive cornerbacks he sees weekly. This hybrid of quickness and physical dominance has translated into over 14,000 yards receiving and 140 touchdowns for Owens. Along his Hall of Fame worthy career, Owens has comprised a five-mile-long highlight reel of impressive plays that are overshadowed by a litany of excessive celebrations. His pulling a Sharpie from his sock to autograph a ball in Seattle. Downing a prop bag of popcorn on Monday Night Football. Cheerleading his own success with pompoms in hands at Candlestick Park. Standing on Dallas’ sacred Star wearing the opposing 49er scarlet and February 2010 61


gold. These are just a few of Owens’ attention-grabbing antics. While the on field festivities gave his supporters moments of laughter, his sideline tirades aimed at teammates (mainly quarterbacks and head coaches) generated as much loathing from his denouncers and pigskin pundits. “My last years in Dallas, I was nothing but the best teammate. A lot of guys can attest to that, but that’s not what they’re going to focus on,” says Owens alluding to his treatment by the press. “The reason why we didn’t make the playoffs last year

wasn’t my fault, but I was labeled as the scapegoat. I realized that and I had to just keep moving on.” His former teams are trying to do likewise. The 49ers are waiting, with fingers crossed, to see if highly-touted rookie Michael Crabtree shapes up to be that much needed, go-to offensive weapon. Donovan McNabb is trying to make the most of Jeremy Maclin’s soft hands and DeSean Jackson’s break away speed to keep the Eagles in contention for the NFC East crown. And it’s wide receiver-by-

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“Seeing all the women in the audience just means that I’ve reached out to a new genre of fans and I’m very appreciative of that.”

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committee in Dallas with a slew of frontrunners vying for the coveted number one slot once held by Owens. In his absence, his presence is felt. “Everywhere that I’ve been, from San Francisco to Philadelphia, they’ve had success, but none like when I was there,” Owens says. “If you look at the situation in Dallas, from a [wide receiver] standpoint, it’s going to take a few guys to duplicate some of the things I did. In different situations of the game, I can offer explosive plays. Not saying that those teams can’t win without me, but their success curtailed once I left. And a lot of commentators don’t bring that point up. They focus on the negatives and overlook the positives.” The problem child stigma that follows Owens from team-to-team solely occurs on the 100-yard stage. Compared to the recent extracurricular incidents NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had to address, Owens is the least of his concerns. It’s a slim to none chance that the headlines will report Owens taking $100,000 in cash to a strip club in an effort to “make it rain”, accidentally discharging his loaded gun into his thigh in the VIP section or lying about his involvement in an illegal

dog fighting ring. Staying out of trouble is more than just a smart public relations move for Owens—it’s the standard. In an episode of The T.O. Show entitled ‘T.O.’s Emotional Trip Home’, Owens took viewers through his native Alexander City, Alabama. One of the many stops along the way was Benjamin Russell High School. The nostalgic trip down the hallways of Owens’ alma mater showed a young Owens at a time he classified himself as being “average”. Now, by his own accord, Owens considers himself a natural athlete. But he still has lessons to share. The trip to his former high school concluded with an impromptu dialogue with up and coming student-athletes. The topic was staying clear of the usual vices to which many adolescents are susceptible and how he avoided becoming another cautionary tale. “I knew guys in high school who drank beer and all that,” Owens said to the teenaged weight -room audience. “I knew all that stuff, but I didn’t do it because my grandmother and mother told me ‘don’t follow the crowd’.” Family is paramount with Terrell Owens. Nowhere is this more evident than in his relationship with his grandmother.

The woman who, as Owens says, supported him throughout the years, now needs his support. Owens’ grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, currently affecting over 5.3 million Americans. Memory loss is a dominant

characteristic of the disease. Though she falls into that large category, she is not just another statistic to Owens. In the same

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episode where Owens calmly talks to the youth, he is reduced to tears attempting to verbally reach the matriarch of his family. “No matter what, whether I’m playing football or not, I’m always going to be someway or somehow involved with Alzheimer’s. The disease doesn’t go away and I treat my involvement the same way—I’m not going to go away,” Owens says verbally placing weight on each word. He and Maria Shriver, journalist and wife of Governor Schwarzenegger, have helped to raise awareness on the disease and look to continue efforts to raise funds for research. “I’m not just going to give my time just because I’m in the limelight. Out of my heart, I just feel like it is the right thing to do.” The lifetime of an NFL play lasts a matter of seconds. Owens understands that life is larger than Sunday’s televised, four-quarter scrum. Many foresee Owens handing in his playbook and quietly awaiting his first-ballot selection to Canton in the near future. Yet, Owens proceeds by faith and not by sight. “Only God knows. I’m not really looking any further,” Owens says. “Just trying to go with the flow of this year and see where I land next year.”

February 2010 63


Owens On Owens  

This is the cover story I wrote for The Green Magazine featuring future NFL Hall of Famer, Terrell Owens. The piece follows Owens in his new...

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