Alexander City, Alabama
- 6× Pro Bowl (2000–2004, 2007)
- 5× First-team All-Pro (2000–2002, 2004, 2007)
- FN Second-Team All-Pro (1998)
- NFC champion (2004)
- 3× NFL Receiving Touchdowns Leader (2001, 2002, 2006)
- 1,000 Catch Club
- 15,000 Receiving Yards Club
- NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
- NFL Records
6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
225 lb (102 kg)
San Francisco 49ers
Based as much on his size and speed as on his demonstrated ability, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers drafted Owens in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Owens played his first professional game against the New Orleans Saints, where he served as a member of the 49ers' special teams. His first catches were recorded against the Carolina Panthers on September 22, 1996 (two catches for a net six yards). Against the Atlanta Falcons a week later Owens had a 17-yard kick return and one catch for 26 yards. His first touchdown came on October 20 against the Cincinnati Bengals; in the fourth quarter he caught a 45-yard touchdown throw from Steve Young that tied a game eventually won by the 49ers 28–21.
In the 1997 NFL season, Owens became a big name for the 49ers when Jerry Rice went down early in the season with a torn ACL. He and quarterback Steve Young helped the 49ers win 13 games that season; Owens finished with 936 receiving yards and eight touchdowns; he added a touchdown in San Francisco's playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings.
1998 was another 12–4 season for the 49ers and the first 1,000-yard year for Owens, as he caught 67 balls for 1,097 yards and fourteen touchdowns; he even had a rushing touchdown in October against the Rams. In the Wildcard playoff game, the 49ers faced the Green Bay Packers who had beaten them five straight times, three of them playoff games. Owens struggled, dropping a number of passes as a result of being briefly blinded by late-afternoon sun. Despite this, Steve Young kept throwing to Owens and he redeemed himself by catching the game-winning touchdown (immortalized by the impassioned game call of 49ers radio play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey) for a 30–27 comeback victory.
The following season was a disaster for San Francisco, as Steve Young was lost for the season in a 24–10 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers fell from grace after a 3–1 start to a 4–12 finish; Owens in that season had 60 catches for 754 yards and four touchdowns. Young retired after the 1999 season after he was unable to pass medical tests as a result of a concussion sustained that season, and Jeff Garcia was named the 49ers' starting quarterback. In 2000, the 49ers only managed to win six games. However, Owens had a record-breaking day on December 17, 2000 with 20 catches for 283 yards in a 17-0 49ers win over the Chicago Bears. This single-game reception total surpassed the 50-year-old mark held by Tom Fears (which has since been surpassed by Brandon Marshall on December 13, 2009). Owens finished the year with 1,451 receiving yards and thirteen touchdowns.
The 2001 49ers managed to compile a 12–4 record but were defeated by the Packers led by Brett Favre in a Wild Card playoff game. Owens finished with sixteen touchdown catches (exactly half the 32 thrown by Jeff Garcia) and 1,412 receiving yards. The 49ers followed up in 2002 with a 10–6 record and their 17th NFC West title; in this season, Owens had 100 catches for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 49ers hosted the New York Giants in the Wild Card playoff round, and after falling behind 38–14, the 49ers erupted to 25 unanswered points; Owens had two touchdown catches and caught two 2-point conversions in the 49ers' 39-38 win. However, they were shot down 31–6 against the soon to be Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who held Owens to only four catches for 35 yards.
Coach Steve Mariucci was fired and former Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson took over. The ensuing season in 2003 proved subpar as the 49ers finished 7–9. It was here that Owens decided to leave. In the summer of 2004, when Garcia, who had been released in the off-season, was a member of the Cleveland Browns, and Terrell Owens was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Owens appeared in an interview for Playboy magazine, where he was asked about long-standing rumors that his former teammate Garcia was homosexual, to which he implied he thought there might be truth to the rumors. The next day, Owens clarified in a press conference that he did not know whether Garcia was gay or not and was not trying to say definitively that Garcia was gay. Owens had also noted in the Playboy interview that he personally would not have a problem with having a gay teammate.
Although Owens was eager to leave the 49ers, the 49ers asserted that Owens' previous agent, David Joseph, had missed the deadline to void the final years of his contract with the team. The NFLPA and Owens disputed this assertion, contending that the deadline referred to by the 49ers was not the applicable deadline. On March 4, 2004, San Francisco, believing it still held Owens' rights, attempted to trade Owens to the Baltimore Ravens for a second round pick in the 2004 draft. However, Owens challenged the 49ers' right to make the deal. Owens assumed that he would become a free agent on March 3, and did not believe that the earlier deadline was applicable. Hence, he negotiated with other teams in advance of his expected free agency, and reached a contract agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles, whose fan base strongly supported Owens in his desire to play for the team. The NFLPA filed a grievance on his behalf.
Before an arbitrator could make a ruling on Owens' grievance, the NFL and the three teams involved in the controversy reached a settlement on March 16, 2004. The Ravens got their second-round pick back from San Francisco, and the 49ers in turn received a conditional fifth-round pick and defensive end Brandon Whiting from the Eagles in exchange for the rights to Owens. Owens' contract with the Eagles was reported to be worth $49 million for seven years, including a $10 million signing bonus.
In September 2004, Terrell Owens released a purported autobiography: Catch This! Going Deep with the NFL's Sharpest Weapon. The 288-page book was ghostwritten by Stephen Singular.
Owens (81) with the Eagles talking to a coach.
The 2004 season got off to a great start for the Eagles, who started 7-0 and 13-1, as well as for Owens, who averaged a touchdown catch per game before his injury. Owens gained a tremendous amount of popularity throughout the league, especially among the Eagles' fan base. On December 19, 2004, Owens sustained a severely sprained ankle and a fractured fibula when Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams took him down with a horse-collar tackle; Owens' injury was one of the major reasons that the horse-collar tackle was later prohibited. With the Eagles heading to Super Bowl XXXIX, Owens shocked the media by announcing he would play no matter what, even though team doctors stated that his injury would take several more weeks to heal. Owens' trainer, James "Buddy" Primm, helped bring Owens back much sooner with the use of Micro Current and a hyperbaric chamber. Skeptics were silenced when Owens started the game and played well; the result was nine receptions and 122 yards, though the Eagles still lost to the New England Patriots. After the game, Owens criticized the media by saying that a player like Brett Favre would have been praised for such bravery.
On April 2005, Owens announced that he had hired a new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and indicated that he would seek to have his contract with the Eagles renegotiated. Owens made $9 million in 2004 (most of which was bonus money, as his base salary was only $660,000), and was slated to make $4.5 million in 2005. This two-year amount did not place Owens in the top 10 paid wide receivers playing. He also made a comment to the effect that he "wasn't the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl"; the remark, thought by most to be directed at quarterback Donovan McNabb, caused a controversy to heat up between them. Owens has always claimed the remark was not directed towards McNabb, but in regard to his obsessive diet and workout programs. On July 1, Owens' relationship with the Eagles became even more tense after Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and club president Joe Banner denied Owens permission to play basketball in a summer league under the auspices of the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
Owens in August 2007
On March 14, 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles released Owens. Four days later, on March 18, 2006, Jerry Jones announced that the Dallas Cowboys had signed Owens to a 3-year, $25 million deal, including a $5 million signing bonus, with a $5 million first year salary.
Owens returned to the field during the Cowboys' 2006 season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the game ended in a Jaguars victory, Owens recorded 8 receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown. The following week, Owens damaged one of his finger bones, and was forced to leave the game. It was later determined that Owens would require surgery to correct the injury, and require anywhere from two to four weeks to recuperate. Days after Owens promised his fans he would return to play against the Philadelphia Eagles, he overdosed on his medication (see Controversy Section). After a bye week giving him time to recuperate, Owens played in the following game against the Tennessee Titans, where he accounted for 88 receiving yards.
The following week, Owens made his highly anticipated return to Philadelphia, where he played his former teammate, Donovan McNabb. Upon his return, Owens was met by a hail of angry jeers and taunts, including chants of "O.D." throughout the game. Despite pregame talk about a weak Eagles secondary, Owens struggled throughout the game. Owens had three catches for 45 yards, while the Cowboys went on to lose, 38–24.
After the game, according to a report from a stadium employee at Lincoln Financial Field, Owens ran into the locker room following the 38–24 loss and launched into a tirade, yelling and asking why the Cowboys bothered signing him in the offseason, indicating that they should have thrown the ball to him more. Owens later confirmed this in a post-practice interview. After the Cowboys defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 38-28, owner Jerry Jones revealed that Owens had injured a tendon on one of his fingers (the same finger that he broke in an unrelated incident a few weeks earlier). The doctors recommended season-ending surgery, but Owens elected to risk permanent damage to his finger and decided to wait until the end of the season to repair the damage. "There's no question about what he's willing to do for his team", Jones said.
Owens led the league in regular season with 13 touchdown receptions. On March 1, 2007, he underwent surgery twice to repair his right ring finger.
On March 8, 2009, the Buffalo Bills signed Owens to a 1-year, $6.5 million contract. Owens had his first catch with the Bills when he had a 27-yard play on a 3rd-and-1 in the 25-24 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. With that catch, he passed former Bills receiver Andre Reed on the all-time Top 20 career leaders list for pass receptions. Owens debuted with 2 catches for 45 yards in the game. Owens caught his first TD pass with Buffalo in a 33-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 20, 2009. Owens had his best game with the Bills in a 15-18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Owens had 9 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown. Owens and Ryan Fitzpatrick set a Bills record for longest TD reception when Fitzpatrick connected with Owens for a 98-yard TD. The 98-yard TD reception is Owens' longest TD reception. He also became the oldest player to have a TD reception of 76+ yards (35 years, 350 days).
Owens became the sixth player to reach 1,000 receptions in a career. He accomplished this during a game against the Atlanta Falcons from an 8-yard pass from Brian Brohm.
Owens (middle) with Chad Ochocinco before a game against the New England Patriots in September 2010.
On July 27, 2010, Owens signed a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. It was reportedly worth two million dollars, with another two million dollars possible from bonuses. He joined Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson, both of whom lobbied for the Bengals to sign Owens. He received his customary number, #81, given to him by free-agent acquisition wide receiver Antonio Bryant in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money to be donated to a charity of Bryant's choice.
Against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, he had a spectacular game with 10 receptions, 222 yards and a touchdown of 78 yards on the day. On December 21, Owens was placed on injured reserve, for the first time in his 15-year career. He still managed to lead all Bengals' receivers (including Ochocinco) with receptions (72), yards (983) and touchdowns (9) for the season. However, the Bengals fell from a 10-6 record the year before Owens joined to a 4-12 record with Owens. The Bengals decided not to re-sign Owens for the 2011 season.
He suffered a torn ACL during the 2011 offseason and underwent surgery in April 2011. According to his agent, he was cleared to play again on October 19. He held a televised workout on October 25, which no NFL teams chose to attend.
On August 6, 2012, Owens signed a one-year, $925,000 contract with the Seattle Seahawks. He was assigned number 10 because Golden Tate already had number 81. On August 26, 2012, Owens announced on his Twitter account that the Seahawks had released him.
On January 13, 2015, in an interview with Sports Illustrated Now, Owens stated that he hasn't retired and stated that, after a hiatus, he was training with numerous NFL players during the 2014 NFL season including the offseason as well. It is not clear when he plans on returning to the NFL.