TORONTO—It's been a phenomenal year for Toronto Argonauts' receiver Chad Owens, who not only broke Pinball Clemons' CFL record for all-purpose yards, but also became a rare non-quarterback finalist for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award. It hasn't been an easy path to this kind of success for Owens, though; yes, he shone at the University of Hawaii, but he never quite caught on in three years in the NFL, and wound up playing arena football in 2008 before heading to the CFL the next year with Montreal. Much like the Stampeders' Kevin Glenn, his path hasn't been all the clear since he came north; he didn't catch on with the Alouettes immediately, and they wound up trading him in 2010 after they wanted to turn him into just a special-teams player and have him take a salary reduction. That trade proved amazing for Owens, though, who's shone with the Argonauts as a receiver and returner over the last three years and made huge strides each season. What motivated him to keep pushing even when nothing seemed to be working? The National Post's Bruce Arthur asked him that during a media session Thursday, and Owens' response was remarkable:
"It was from day one," Owens said. "Not a lot of people know this, but I was born a month-and-a-half early, weighed three pounds. My mom was having complications and the doctors asked my grandmother, 'Do you want to save the baby or save your daughter?'And of course my grandmother said 'Save my daughter, she can have more kids.' This is the story...I don't know how much of it's the truth, but my dad said that he came in and said 'No, you save them both.' So, you know, we both survived. I've been fighting from day one."
Owens said he was a tiny baby.
"My dad said my whole head fit in his palm," he said. "I was a little thing."
Owens said that approach has translated into the odds he's faced in football as a 5'7'', 180-pound receiver, too.
"I've always been the smaller guy," he said. "I've always had to prove that I can play with the big boys, I can be here, you know? I think that's something that's been instilled in me since birth, and that's my gift, my blessing from God. That's where it comes from."
Given that rough start to life and that early triumph against the odds, it's understandable why Owens is so determined to keep succeeding. What's really impressive is that thus far, success has only motivated him to push even harder. He established himself as a dominant returner almost right away in 2010, but slowly has transformed himself into an elite pass-catcher as well, and he led the league with 1,328 receiving yards this season. He's become one of the Argonauts' biggest all-around threats, and a huge day from him could go a long way towards giving them a win Sunday. Of course, the Stampeders know that too, and they'll be focused on containing him both on defence and in the passing game. The question is if they'll be successful, or if Owens will overcome the odds again.