Peter Holland Jr./ Contributing Writer
Is it a coincidence that the Panthers have a T.O. on their roster that happens to play wide receiver and happens to wear a number 81 jersey? No his name is not Terrell Owens nor has family relations to the former NFL player and future hall of famer, however, when you see the sophomore receiver, Thomas Owens, in the last three games, you might think it’s Terrell Owens taking his talents to Tamiami Trail. Owens, at 6’1” 198 pounds, has been the go-to receiver for the Panthers in the last three games.
With the Panthers 2-2, Owens has contributed the offense so far with the total of 22 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 13.00 yards per game. Week one against UCF, he was one shy away of breaking T.Y. Hilton’s record for most catches in a game. Week two, despite a loss against Indiana, he broke out with nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns. That makes Owens the fourth receiver in school history to have more than 150 yards in a single game. Just last week against North Carolina Central, he finished with three catches for 42 yards and one touchdown. It has been a while since the Panthers have a receiver who can not only put up productive numbers but can also make a difference for the Panther’s young and explosive offense. “This year they gave me the opportunity and I’m just trying to take advantage of it,” Owens said. The only word that he described his first season as a starter was “better.”
Owens came to FIU recruited as an athlete coming out of high school. The Delray Beach native played multiple positions back in Atlantic Community High School. He was a solid basketball player as well. The combination of a dual athlete gave him the advantage of being a wide receiver. “Basketball helped me a lot with the rebounds, blocks and defense,” Owens said. With his basketball background and his 6’1” 198 pound frame, it’s not surprising for him to fight for the ball against the secondary. “He has been the safety blanket,” starting QB Alex McGough said. “Thomas has been kept comfortable this season. It’s great to know that if I throw it to him, he’s going to make a play.”
Owens, who’s a sports management major, doesn’t necessarily have a favorite NFL player, but he is willing to learn from current NFL players and try to imitate their abilities on the field. When Owens was asked about FIU, he thought about T.Y. Hilton and what he accomplished. Inspiring him to do great no matter what the future holds him. “T.Y. is a great player,” Owens said. “It’s a great experience knowing that an NFL player came from your school and is making a big difference out of it.”
What’s important for Owens when he is getting ready to take the field is thinking about his family, including his mother. “Before a game I think about my mom a lot,” Owens said. “It just pushes me. Sometimes I pray on it before practice. It just pushes me to keep going. It gives me a good grind.” Every time T.O. steps on the field whether it’s practice or a game, it’s always family first and it’s enough for the sophomore to motivate him and jostle his elevation as the number one receiver. Whenever Owens is not on the field, weight room or classroom, he is on the basketball court shooting hoops for fun.
Despite being considered an underdog team, Thomas Owens, with a lot of confidence, believes that the Panthers will succeed in C-USA. “We just need to stick with the game plan and if we excel and play hard, we should accomplish our goal and that’s to win,” Owens said.