Read an Excerpt
I wrote this book for a lot of reasons, but the most important reason was that I wanted to communicate directly with you -- the fan. So much of what I said and did was portrayed to you by the media. When I did a TV interview, you saw the edited version of what I had to say, rather than the whole interview. When I talked to reporters, they took the catchy, controversial lines and presented them as if that were all I had to say. When I did something on the field or on the sidelines, my actions were described to you by commentators who put their own spin on it. When the Eagles released a statement about my conduct, it was done only from their perspective. Yet, since the start of the 2005 season, I have not publicly responded to what was said about me.
Without knowing all the facts, the media have speculated about what happened behind closed doors, based on half-truths that were leaked to accomplish the agenda of anonymous sources. I wanted to respond to set the record straight, but I knew, as was the case with the apology I made on my front lawn, that the media would criticize one aspect or another of it.
Then, when the arbitrator upheld my season-long suspension -- a decision that violated the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement -- I knew I wasn't going to get a fair shake. The arbitrator's decision was such an injustice that it led the NFL to agree to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement so that no other player can ever again be punished the way I was. Even after that, I didn't complain. I kept quiet -- until now.
How could I accept such injustice? By knowing that the day would come when I would be free of everyone else's control. It was a long road between the time of my suspension and ultimate free agency, but I made the journey.
This book -- the process of writing it, of telling my story -- helped get me there. These are my words, straight from me to you. My critics will be negative and try to tell you that I just lent my name to someone else's work, but don't be fooled. When they criticize me for telling you about the wild roller-coaster ride, the ups and downs, it won't mean a thing because this is my story and no one can tell you different. This was the only way I could communicate with you, one on one, without anyone else's interference. That was why, instead of a well-known writer, I wanted one of my agents, Jason Rosenhaus, to coauthor this book, so that I wouldn't have to deal with someone who wanted to put their own take on things.
I took on a world of criticism and hardship during my suspension. There was a great deal of uncertainty, and speculation that my career was in jeopardy. There were times when things looked extremely bleak. It would have been easy to give in to the negativity, but I refused. I had faith in God and myself that everything would work out. I disregarded the naysayers and pressed on. And it is my sincere hope that, if you happen to be down on your luck and the times are tough, maybe this book will help you keep the faith so that you can come out on top as well.
What I went through, all the craziness that happened, has been misportrayed to the public. Everyone else's point of view was out there, but not mine. Now, I'm telling my story like it really went down, regardless of the consequences. That is how I was raised to be.
So get ready to read about what it's like to be inside an NFL huddle, to be in the Philadelphia Eagles' locker room, to step onto the football field, to suffer and overcome a brutal injury, to rehabilitate against all odds, and to play in a Super Bowl. And that was the good year!
Get out your popcorn and be right there with me as I take you back to what happened with the wildest, most documented story of all from the NFL's last two years.
Make no mistake; this is not an apology or a defense. This is an explanation. I don't claim to be perfect and I admit I made my share of mistakes, but there is another side to the story that you haven't seen until now. I'm not asking you to love me, and I certainly don't want you to hate me. I'm just asking you to take into account what I have to say with an open mind. I want you to judge me for yourself, not based on what the media says, but based on what I have written in my story. Enjoy...
Copyright © 2006 by Terrell Owens and Jason Rosenhaus
Chapter 1: Yesterday's Loser
Scrawny and quiet -- that's what I was like growing up in Alexander ("Alex") City, Alabama. Alex City is a small country town where there's nothing to do but get into trouble. As a teenager, I was the perfect target for the big bully on the block: I was skinny, awkward-looking, and kept to myself. The one thing I could do well was run, and believe me, I needed to do a lot of that. In my neighborhood, there was always a group of bad teens hanging out, waiting to pounce on a kid like me. They would stand on a corner and look for a loner walking down the street. After getting chased down and beaten up a couple of times, I became a good runner. Joining the track team in junior high school wasn't for fun, it was for survival.
I find it funny that so many people assume I was a star jock coming out of high school. They assume I was the most popular kid in class who got all the girls. I wish! That couldn't be farther from the truth.
They think I have a loud, self-promoting, fast-talking personality. They could not be more wrong. I'm actually a pretty quiet, straight-up country boy -- until you cross the line. Once you cross that line, you're gonna hear from me and there ain't no going back. What that line is, well, that depends.
One afternoon while I was in high school, I was riding home on a school bus after a track event. I made the mistake of falling asleep on the bus. It was just my luck that the biggest and meanest kid in school was on that bus, too. I was physically exhausted and passed out in a deep sleep. I was breathing through my mouth and it was open as I slept. The jerk came over and hocked up a big wad from his throat and nasal passages. He dropped that huge, disgusting gob of spit right into my mouth.
I slept right through the whole thing while everybody laughed at me. I didn't find out about it until later. Can you imagine the shame, the humiliation I felt when I went home and told my family? For what seemed like an eternity, I was teased and tormented unmercifully by the kids at school. I had been a loner before that happened, and became even more isolated after.
Everyone laughed at me. I tried to block out the image of his spit entering my mouth, but I felt nauseated every time I thought about it. Knowing that he disgraced me and got the best of me was more than I could handle. From that day on, I was done being a pushover. Yesterday's loser was determined to become tomorrow's winner.
A couple of days later, a bigger, older kid caught me walking by myself. He was looking for trouble, and I had a big target on my back. I was supposed to be his entertainment for the day. As soon as I turned the corner, I saw him running after me. I reacted by doing what was natural for me -- I ran. Then I remembered something my grandma told me.
She said, "If one of those big bullies tries to get you, pick something up, hit him with it, and run."
And that's just what I did. I stopped, grabbed a brick, and turned to face him. I was tired of being the loser in these fights. I'd had enough of getting bested. I was ready to stand up for myself. I felt overcome by a wave of emotion, a rush of adrenaline, and I felt the strength of God in me. He saw my face, the brick in my hand, looked at me again, and ran away.
Then a funny thing happened: I started chasing him. I ran after him with that brick and tried to beat him down with it. The whole thing looked like one of those Tom and Jerry cartoons where they take turns chasing each other. I laugh about it now, but it was terrifying at the time.
Eventually, we got near my house and I stopped chasing him. As I walked through the front door, still holding that brick, I felt something new -- satisfaction. When I got home and told my grandma and mom what I had done, they laughed. I laughed, too, and then I saw that they were proud of me for standing my ground. All of a sudden I found a sense of pride.
After that day, I could never again go back to being the wimpy coward who was the butt of everyone's jokes. The problem was that I couldn't walk around with a brick in my hand everywhere I went. The other thing on my mind was that I was tired of being too skinny to do this and too weak to do that. My football coach never put me in to play because I was just a stick with oversized pads on that didn't fit. I couldn't fill out my uniform, so whenever I ran, everything wobbled. I was a joke and I wanted to be more than that.
I was raised in an extremely strict household where I didn't watch much TV and I just kept to myself. I remember one afternoon, when I was a young teen, and the Big Red chewing gum commercial came on TV. It was the one where the chorus is singing, "So kiss a little longer...make it last a little longer..." while they show couples kissing. It is certainly not R-rated, but my grandma acted like it was a XXX movie clip. Feeling that the commercial was inappropriate for kids, she got angry and turned that TV off for the entire night.
I spent my days staring out the window, alone with my thoughts. After sitting in my room long enough, the answer to all my problems came to me. I realized it was time to get acquainted with my high-school gym.
I started lifting weights. I had all the motivation in the world to get bigger, stronger, tougher, and faster. I worked out in the high-school gym every day, whenever the school and my mother would let me. All I wanted to do was pump iron. It was hard work, but I didn't care. The physical pain replaced the mental pain and I liked that. Pretty soon I started to see a change. Muscles started developing and strengthening. My biceps, abs, chest, and quadriceps started bulging. I could feel myself growing stronger and running faster. The more progress I made, the harder I worked. I emerged from that summer with a sense of purpose and entered my senior year of high school as a different person, physically and mentally.
Although my body matured, the feelings of shame and failure were only a memory away. Eventually the other kids forgot about the spitting incident and I made a couple of friends along the way.
Feeling a little more confident, coordinated, and cool, I decided one afternoon in my senior year to go to the record store and hang out there with a friend of mine. The shopkeeper sold records, tapes, candy, soda, clothing, and just about anything else kids would want to buy. It was a cool place to go after school and had become a popular scene in the projects.
For once during my extremely rigid and isolated upbringing, I was having a good time. Then trouble walked in the door. One of the other players on the football team came looking deliberately for me. A few days earlier, the head coach had asked me about an incident that had taken place. As I was raised to do, I told the coach the truth about what happened.
The player didn't like it and came there to fight me. As I said before, I wasn't much into fighting, but it was going down and I had no choice.
When he saw that I wasn't going to back down, he threw the first punch and we went at it. I fought him toe to toe. Things got crazy in that store as his friend started fighting my friend. My friend and I fought our way out of there. I stood my ground, and he never messed with me again.
Not much has changed since. I still won't let anyone bully me. Whether it's over respect or a $49-million NFL contract, I'm going to fight for what I think is right. What no one in the media seems to recognize is that I am not about money. I am about the principle of what's right and wrong. When I'm wronged, I'm going to stand up and try to make things right. And because of that, I was crucified by the media and penalized more harshly than any player in the history of the NFL.
I made my share of mistakes, but I never broke the law or hurt anybody. My penalty was a four-game suspension without pay and being sent home the remainder of the season. An arbitrator ruled that it was appropriate that I be fined approximately eight hundred thousand dollars for my "disruptive" behavior. But what did I do? Did I murder someone? Did I rape someone? Did I hit someone with my car? Did I get arrested for a DUI? Did I get arrested for drugs? Did I use steroids? Did I beat on my wife? Did I abuse an animal? Did I hold out of training camp or any preseason games? Did I cheat? Did I hurt another player with a cheap shot? Did I quit on my team? Did I give a losing effort in the Super Bowl? Did I make racist or prejudiced comments? Did I use profanity? Did I lie? No. If I had, that would be okay. The NFL, the fans, and the media would forgive that. What no one forgives -- is reality. The truth hurts. I spoke the truth. I bucked the system, said what I wanted to say, and took on the NFL. That was my crime. For that, the bully came after me harder than anyone before.
The media have portrayed me as the bad guy because I am not politically correct and will not be a "company man."
When I was a young player in this league, my idol, the great Jerry Rice, told me, "TO, at some point you're going to have to learn to be politically correct. You know, give in, give 'em what they want."
As much as I respected him then and still do now, I told him, "Nah, not me."
I know my life would be so much easier if I could compromise my principles and say things publicly that I don't mean, just to appease people who don't care about me. I know I would have made more money. I know I wouldn't be taking so much criticism from the media. I know all of this. But I also know that the day I give in, the day I compromise, the day I stop being the ultracompetitor I am, is the day I won't be able to play this game anymore. I wouldn't be where I am today if I could be politically correct instead of honest. I can only be one way -- my way. I am Alice Black's grandson and Marilyn Owens's boy! I have a simple code I follow that was ingrained in my soul by my grandmother and mother. That code demands that I be my best. That means being honest, working hard, and always doing what I think is right. Their spirit is in me. It's what drives me to go jump up and snatch that ball out of the air to score touchdowns. That spirit pushes me to beat the defender trying to stop me. If I compromise my spirit, I'll become broken and won't be special anymore.
For these reasons, I believe that I am the best wide receiver in the game today. I was not born this way. In high school, I was too skinny to get on the field. Once I got more muscular, as a kid growing up in Alabama, I dreamed about play-ing football for Alabama University, but the Crimson Tide didn't want me. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offered me a scholarship but was much more interested in our high school's other receiver. The NFL drafted eighty-eight players before I was picked, including eleven other receivers.
The year before drafting me, the 49ers traded two first-round picks to draft J. J. Stokes as the heir apparent to Jerry Rice. I was looked at as just another guy, nothing special. All my life, I have had to overcome adversity. How does a kid go from not being good enough in high school, to a backup receiver at a small college nobody knows about, to a Pro Bowl wide receiver with more than one hundred career NFL touchdowns? By having a big enough heart that through sheer force of will he keeps on beating the odds.
I am as good as I am because God has blessed me with talent and because I have worked as hard as any person on the planet to get here. Unlike so many other professional athletes, I eat with extreme discipline, rarely drink alcohol, don't smoke, and don't use illegal drugs of any kind. I sleep properly, lift weights, run until I drop, practice intensely, and do everything else humanly possible to be the best that I can be. No one can say that I don't train hard, practice hard, or play hard. I have overcome the pain of taking dozens of long needle injections all over my body including in my groin.
I have endured an enormous amount of bitter criticism in learning to accept that people have the right to express their opinions. I accept that fact and respect others, but that doesn't mean I believe everything they say. There are a lot of haters out there hoping I fail. Despite their negativity and enjoyment of my struggles, I refuse to stay discouraged and I will always press on. This past year I faced a great deal of uncertainty. There were tough times, but throughout it all I stood tall with my chin up and my head held high.
Why? I am a God-fearing man. I find my strength from my faith in God and my family. I believe that He has a purpose for me and isn't finished with me yet.
I've heard in church, "You must go through the storm before you receive your blessings."
I have suffered through broken bones, torn ligaments, agonizing losses, unfair punishment, and extreme frustration -- all for the dream of becoming a Super Bowl champion. I only know how to compete like a champion. That's why I can't give people what they want, because what they really want is to see me fail. I won't let that happen, and I'll fight with everything I have to stand up for myself until they knock me down and I can't get up anymore. You want me to compromise? Make me!
Copyright © 2006 by Terrell Owens and Jason Rosenhaus