POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 13, 2011
Chad Owens is a bright guy, always has been. And with a recent important career decision he finds himself in the company of another intelligent young man, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
National Football League calling? Uh, thanks but no thanks. I've got something else to do for now. I'll get back to you.
Owens, the former Roosevelt and University of Hawaii star, turned down an offer from the New York Jets to stay with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
Luck chose to remain at Stanford instead of entering the NFL Draft, where many expected him to be the first pick.
Turn down the NFL?
Oh, my! The nerve! How dare you?
We marveled at Owens' high-risk moves returning kicks a decade ago (yes, it's been that long — 10 years since he broke those NCAA records against BYU as a freshman).
Now this is a maneuver to really admire, even though Owens did the equivalent of calling a fair catch. He made the safe play — and, more importantly, the smart play, especially with a young family of five.
"Definitely, it's family first and foremost," said Owens yesterday, before sharing some of his knowledge with hundreds of local kids at the Barefoot League Field of Legends Football Clinic at Aloha Stadium.
JOB SECURITY is a rare commodity in pro football. Owens has a much better shot at it with the Argos, and in the CFL, where he is a superstar, the best special teams player in the league.
He considered seriously the offers from NFL teams, especially one from the New York Jets. But two things weighed heavily: There's no guarantee he'll make the team, and there's no guarantee there will even be an NFL to play in this season.
Is it possible Owens could've made the Jets roster, run back some kicks and punts for touchdowns this fall and gotten to the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl? Sure, but an NFL lockout seems more likely than that scenario right now, and if that happens all bets are off.
So, Owens opted for the smart play in the long run. He took the good field position. Two or three more years in a place where, barring injury, it's a virtual lock his star will continue to rise. Two or three more years in a place where he likes his teammates and championship possibilities. Two or three more years in a city where he and his family are comfortable and happy.
"A lot of prayers, things are in the Lord's hands. At the end of the day Toronto was the right choice. I feel at peace," Owens said. "It's a great group of guys to go to battle with and a great organization. They allow me to go out there and be me."
OF COURSE, LUCK'S situation is in many ways different than that of Owens. He's still in school, he's not a 28-year-old veteran of a college walk-on tryout, the NFL, CFL, AFL, and the surgeon's knife.
Owens' signing bonus for staying with the Argos was reported at $50,000. Sam Bradford was guaranteed $50 million when the St. Louis Rams made him first pick of last year's NFL Draft.
But Luck's decision was heavily influenced by the same dynamic as Owens' — that of no one knowing what's going to happen with the NFL next season. That kind of crazy money might never again be going to rookies, starting with this year's draft. Luck's move — or, actually, nonmove — means that he plays football this fall, for Stanford.
IF OWENS HADN'T muffed three punts in his NFL debut in 2006, he might not have ended up in the CFL. And he might be wondering today if he'd be playing football this season.
Does it make you think things happen for a reason?
"Definitely," said Owens, who has become a much more religious person through it all, especially while coming back from a torn ACL in 2008. "The Lord has a plan."
And, anyway, isn't the goal to play the game at its highest level?
Chad Owens might very well be doing that during the 2011 football season, as a member of the Toronto Argonauts.