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In Catch This! Owens takes readers back to his hardscrabble childhood in rural Alabama, where he was raised by a stern grandmother and loving mother. By the time he won an athletic scholarship for football at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the once small, bullied boy had transformed himself into a very large man with a super body and an iron will to succeed. He takes us behind his apprenticeship to -- and eventual eclipsing of -- the legendary 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice. He pulls no punches when it comes to his extremely public fight with San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci -- a relationship so sour that they didn't speak at all during the crucial final weeks of the 2001 season. And, finally, he lets loose on the free agent scandal that shook the NFL in 2004 -- and reveals the truth behind the NFL's attempt to deny him free agency, his fraudulent trade to the Baltimore Ravens, and his ultimate happy landing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
For those who think they know both Terrell Owens and TO, catch this story.
A couple of years ago, I went back home to Alexander City, Alabama, about an hour's drive south and east of Birmingham. I don't go home much anymore, but my mom still lives there, along with a few old friends. I was eating at a local restaurant when a white family came in and sat down a few tables away. Their son was about three years old and had a high, loud voice, the kind that grabs your attention. He kept pointing at me.
"Who's that nigger, Daddy?" he said. "Who's that nigger over there?"
I tried to ignore him, but that was impossible.
"Who's that nigger, Daddy?"
I've been trying to ignore insults like that ever since I was very small. I'm dark, and I grew up hearing racial slurs from everyone -- both black and white. Other black kids called me "Shine" and "Purple Pal." You can guess what the white kids called me. From the time I was a child, I had to learn not to react to people's stupidity and cruelty, even when that's all I wanted to do. I had to learn to let things go and to control myself, and I was trying to let this go in the restaurant. I just wanted to finish my meal, leave these people and this town behind, and not come back home again anytime soon. But the kid wouldn't be quiet.
"Who's that nigger, Daddy? Who's that nigger right there?"
Someone else in the café decided to stand up and walk over to the family's table and tell them that I was Terrell Owens, Pro Bowl wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, who'd grown up in Alexander City and played ball at the local high school.
The family looked stunned to hear this, and it shut the boy up, at least for a short while. His parents were so embarrassed that they turned away from me and talked between themselves. But then I heard a sound and saw the kid approaching me.
His parents had sent him to my table for my autograph. I was, I guess, the most famous person Alex City had ever produced. When the child got to my table, I looked right at him and didn't say anything, but very slowly and neatly wrote out my signature, using my best handwriting and putting the number 81 on the piece of paper. I always do this when I give out an autograph. I was raised to be polite, to forgive and to accept and to go on. I've tried to do that my whole life -- with myself and my family and others. That's why I gave the boy my autograph. I wanted his parents to know that it wasn't the kid's fault that he was acting this way -- no three-year-old knows this stuff unless someone has taught it to him, so he didn't deserve to be punished. Racists aren't born but made, one child at a time, one word at a time, and until adults break this chain of ignorance and hatred, it will never stop.
I also wanted his parents to know, just as I want the National Football League to know, that they don't get to define me or to control me or my feelings. That's my job, on the football field and in life. They don't get to tell me when to give an autograph or when to celebrate or when to cry. I'm the only one who can decide what's right for me -- and I'm willing to pay the price for being who I am. My grandmother and my mom taught me that I need to walk through this world with a strong mind and a big heart, so that's my goal. I don't always reach it. Sometimes I stumble, and sometimes I come close to falling, but then I refocus and try to learn and get better.
I've been doing this for as long as I can remember.
Football is not the most important thing in my life. It's not even the second most important thing. It's faith, family, and football, in that order. I don't think of myself as a professional football player but as an athlete who ended up in the NFL. I wish it were different. If things had gone the way I wanted them to, I'd be playing pro basketball now instead of football, and then my mom could see my face whenever I made a basket or grabbed a rebound or blocked a shot. She's the reason I started celebrating in the end zone in the first place: I wanted her to see me on television. She watched the 49ers games down in Alabama, and the only way I could make sure that the camera stayed on me was to score a touchdown and then do something nobody had ever done before. This led to dancing on the star in the middle of the field in Dallas, and that led to Sharpie and to shaking the cheerleaders' pom-poms. Who knows what will happen next? Before each game, I tell my mom to stay tuned for something new.
In the NBA, I could express myself naturally on the court without causing a national crisis, but the NFL -- the No Fun League -- isn't like that. It's a lot like the military, where everyone is supposed to fall in line and be like everyone else. I'm not like anyone else. My family wasn't like anyone else's, so I wasn't raised like other people. I was raised to be myself and to tell the truth and to take the consequences for doing that. I'm not going to keep quiet or stay inside a box, the way many pro athletes do, even some very famous ones who've told me that the best road was to be politically correct at all times. That was best for them, not me. The NFL can't deal with me -- because they never know what I'm going to do next.
After I scored the winning touchdown against Seattle on Monday Night Football and then signed the ball with a Sharpie, some people in the NFL and the press called me an embarrassment to the sport, shameless, selfish, egotistical, and worse. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren took a major shot at me, and so did football commentators from coast to coast. You'd have thought I committed a crime, like some other players we could talk about in pro sports today. We've got guys charged with rape, with drug abuse, with beating their wives and girlfriends, and with murder. We've got rap sheets all over the league, and I brought disgrace to the league by carrying a pen in my sock and autographing a football? A lot of people in America have lost perspective about sports, and about life. Some of them are filled with judgment and even hate. Many have forgotten what love and acceptance are all about -- not to mention having fun. They forget that football is entertainment, and they have no idea what an athlete goes through to get into the NFL, let alone get into the end zone on Monday Night Football. If they did, they might feel like celebrating, too, when something goes right.
After Sharpie, the media began writing and talking about me as if they know who I am and what I stand for. They don't. Like many NFL owners and league executives, they don't know where I came from or what I believe in. They don't want to know too much about the hired hands who make their football machines go. They want us to do our jobs and stay in our places and shut up. They don't want to see or hear anything that will make them think very much about the people who work for them. The press can't understand that when I went to the star in Dallas, I wasn't trying to taunt anyone but was thanking and honoring God for all the blessings I've received and for all the things I've been able to do for my family. They want athletes to be role models for young people, but when I try to tell them about my spiritual foundation, they don't want to know about it. Real faith makes them nervous. Real life is too big or too scary compared with a football game. Athletes aren't supposed to be real people, only trained entertainers, but reality can get in the way of a good story or a cheap opinion.
I always tell people that if they really want to know who I am, they should look deeply into my eyes, because the reality and the truth are there. I'm a person just like yourself, with a heart and a history and a lot of feelings about my past. Look into my eyes, and maybe you'll understand why faith and family are so important to me and why football is just a way of serving them. Look into my eyes, and maybe you can learn where I'm from and why I want to celebrate after scoring a touchdown.
Look and listen.
Copyright © 2004 by Terrell Owens and Stephen Singular
Excerpted from Catch This! by Terrell Owens Copyright © 2004 by Terrell Owens. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 9, 2009
Terrell Owens is without question one the of most interesting professional athletes today, and fittingly enough, his life before football was just as interesting. He grew up with somewhat of a broken family. His father left him and his mom at birth, and with his mom working two jobs, he was raised mostly by his stern grandmother and father. As a younger child Terrell was smaller than average and his family was very poor so he was never able to participate in any sports. His junior year of High School he went out for the football team and didn't play at all until his senior year when the wide receiver in front of him was injured in a game. His first ever play in a game he caught an impressive seventy yard touchdown catch and went on to score four more. After High School he was offered a spot on University of Tennessee Chatanooga's football team where again struggled to even play. Also surprisingly, he nearly dropped out of college because he missed his mother so much, until she talked him into staying. After college he was drafted in the 19th round to the San Francisco 49ers where he spent the first part of his career until being traded to Dallas.
My favorite part about this book was that it gave another perspective to the life of Terrell Owens. Many people dislike T.O. and I was one of them until I read this book. He had to overcome many, many challenges and for him to achieve his ultimate goal with so much adversity to face, I find that very respectable. He showed outstanding determination to attain his dream and that was not only reputable but also inspiring. I learned that many adversities that one may face seem impossible to overcome, but with the right amount of faith, and will to go on, impossible is nothing.
Posted March 17, 2006
This story starts off by Terrell Owens grew up in a large family. Terrell Owens has a lot of sisters of sisters's and stepsister's. He also has a lot of brother's and stepbrother's. His mom was named Marilyn Owens and his grandmother's name is Alice Black. His grandpa's name is Simmie Black. Terrell Owens grew up in Alexander City, Alabama. He went to Benjamin High School. His grandmother was really picky about Terrell Owens going outside and playing with other kids. I recommend this book to any kids who likes football. I also recommend this also to grownups who likes football.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
T.O. is a great player and he wrote a great story about his life. The book got to me and told me that if i practice i can suceed. T.O. encouraged me to do that even. GO EAGLES!!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2005
If you are at all interested in T.O. and his background this is a must have. Being in Philly, I have become increasingly fascinated with Terrell and I like the book. MUST HAVE FOR EVERY T.O. OR EAGLES FANWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2005
The whole book talks about T.O's hardship throughtout his life. It tells you how he made such sacrificing decisions on his lifelong journey to stardom. He has fought through racisim and faught against people who did not believe in him, and got through it. On and off the field he gives 100% to do what he has to do whether its, taking care of his mother, giving money to charity, or out on the field catching footballs. He shows true heart and character. I highly say pick up this book, if you dont you are missing out on alot. In this book it shows how he stuck through hard times even though others would just give up. You should respect these players more then you probably should be. He has also given money to a variety of charities and therefore should be thanked. Terrell Owens is a great example as a charasmatic and respectful person, dont miss out on this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2005
The book is about how football star, Terrell Owens, had to go through many obstacles and pain to get where he is right now. When Terrell was a little kid, many people would always pick on him and make some racial remarks about him. After hearing through all this negativity about him, Terrell decided to train hard to become the best football player ever, and to make lots of money to provide for his family and let his mother retire from working in the factory. After playing well in college, Terrell got drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. After few years of backing up Jerry Rice, Terrell finally was a starting receiver for the 49ers and he made it to the Pro Bowl, where he was considered one of the elite players in the league. I would recommend this book for readers of all ages because I have learned what kind of person Terrell really is. Many sports writers and analysts think Terrell Owens is a bad figure to sports because he would always do celebrations after scoring a touchdown. I disagree with those people because I have learned that Terrell Owens is an honest person who cares for his family. I have learned that Terrell is a very religious person and he always cares for his grandmother, who has Alzheimer¿s disease. I admire the fact that Terrell uses the negativity that surrounds him and uses it to his advantage to become the person that he is today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 4, 2004
From his rough childhood, to his college years, to the ups and downs of his San Francisco years, to the free agency controversy in March 2004, TO tells his story. The people that don't like him may never change their minds, but this book shows that he's not the bad guy everyone makes him out to be. Eagles fans and TO fans should pick up a copy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2004
I thought this book was really good. It was also very inspiring. Anyone reading this book will be extremely surprised to find out how he grew up and the type of person he REALLY is! What I enjoyed the most was just hearing TO's side of all the stories that have been in the media. I also liked the fact that he is a very driven man (You guys...just listen...he only wants to WIN...he wants to WIN A SUPERBOWL!) and took all of the negativity that he experienced in his life and turned it into positivity which helped him get to where he is today. I also find it very interesting to hear his perception of the NFL. A must read for EAGLES fans and anyone who believes all the BAD media hype about TO!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.