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|Leave it to Terrell Owens to choose to become the first person to celebrate being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame somewhere other than at the Canton Womens Josh Norman Jersey , Ohio shrine.
The receiver who provided so many exhilarating and exasperating moments during one of the NFL’s most prolific careers is about 600 miles away from Canton this weekend. Hours before the other inductees are honored, Owens will give his own acceptance speech at Chattanooga , where he played college football and basketball and ran track.
Owens announced on Twitter in June that, while ”incredibly appreciative,” he wouldn’t attend the induction ceremony. Owens never shared his reasons for staying away. Less than a month later, Owens again used social media to say he’d hold his own induction ceremony in Chattanooga.
”Getcha popcorn ready!” wrote the man who once celebrated a touchdown with popcorn.
Owens said Friday in Chattanooga there’s a ”flaw in that system” about how Hall of Famers are selected and he wanted to ”make a stand” for future candidates. Owens, who wasn’t selected to the Hall of Fame until his third year of eligibility, noted how grateful he was to accept this honor ”right here where it all began.”
He’s been quite chatty on social media in the weeks leading up to his induction. Owens tweeted that he ”wouldn’t have a PRO career if it wasn’t for Chattanooga (hash)THISISFORYOU.” When asked why he’s bypassing the Canton ceremony, Owens tweeted that ”I don’t need to be on their stage to do it. I’ll be fine & im sure they will be too.”
Chattanooga remains a place where Owens is loved for what he accomplished well before becoming an NFL star. Owens had 2,320 career yards receiving in college and also played basketball on two NCAA Tournament teams before the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the third round of the 1996 draft.
In the NFL, Owens strung together numerous antics – posing on the Dallas Cowboys‘ star logo at midfield Womens Patrick Mahomes Jersey , engaging in sideline tirades – with five teams over 15 seasons. But his college coaches marveled at his work ethic and considered him fun to coach.
”First guy (on the field), last guy off,” former Chattanooga football coach Buddy Green said. ”He worked hard, man. He tried to get better every practice. You’d put him on a special team, and he was the first guy down the field. He just loved to play the game. He was great to coach. He worked as hard as anybody on the field, even harder probably.”
Mack McCarthy coached Chattanooga basketball during Owens’ years on campus and remembers a guy who could come off the bench and defend at any position.
”He could not have been a better teammate,” McCarthy said. ”He couldn’t have been better to coach.”
Owens has a busy weekend planned for his return to campus.
He spoke to Chattanooga’s current student-athletes Friday morning and also took 35 area youths on a shopping spree . Athletic director Mark Wharton said the school will have a private dinner for him Friday night and estimates about 2,000 people will gather at McKenzie Arena for Owens’ induction speech Saturday afternoon.
Plans to celebrate Owens’ Hall of Fame career in Chattanooga had been in the works since March. That’s when Wharton attended Owens’ induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and heard some of the receiver’s stories from his college days for over an hour.
”From there, his team started saying fairly immediately that he wanted to do something in Chattanooga round the Hall of Fame,” Wharton said. ”I assumed – we all assumed (since) nobody’s not gone to Canton – we assumed and started planning for the weekend before. Then in May or so, Terrell notified all of us his desires to have it here.”
Owens’ decision to avoid Canton has been called a mistake by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones Youth Ben Roethlisberger Jersey , Owens’ former boss who was inducted into the Hall of Famer last year. Several former players and Hall of Famers also have criticized Owens.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame still will honor Owens as part of the weekend festivities. Owens, who ranks second in NFL history in career yards receiving (15,934) and third in touchdown catches (153) , will be part of the 2018 class exhibit with his picture on a light standard at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and his own glass locker.
Hall of Fame President David Baker called Owens’ decision unprecedented and disappointing .
”We respect he has strong feelings of his own and I respect his right to make that decision,” Baker said. ”I invited him to the hall, even at the last moment he would be welcomed, and he is welcomed every day the rest of his life. Even though he is not here, we will honor him to the best of our ability.”
Owens has never wavered. He retweeted someone who noted any message he provides in his induction speech would be heard by many more people in Canton rather than Chattanooga.
”This choice wasn’t made for the millions,” Owens replied via Twitter . ”It was made for the ones that matter.”
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
The matchup was a mismatch. And it ended predictably: with Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Heyward shedding Tennessee Titans rookie guard Aaron Stinnie and driving quarterback Blaine Gabbert into the ground.
Heyward popped up and turned to the Pittsburgh sideline with his palms raised after picking up his first sack of the preseason early in the second half of a 16-6 victory on Saturday.
Asked if the pose was his way of asking the coaching staff if it had seen enough, Heyward just laughed.
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A not uncommon sentiment for the defending AFC North champions. A week after getting pushed around a bit by Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers in a lopsided loss in Green Bay, Pittsburgh's defense responded by limiting Tennessee to 52 yards in the first half and keeping them out of the end zone until well after Heyward and the rest of the first stringers had departed.
Was it the "varsity" football coach Mike Tomlin was looking for? Heyward isn't quite sure. But it's as close as it gets in August.
"We game-planned a lot more this game," Heyward said. "This is something you continue to do as preseason goes along. You start to add more and more. This was a dress rehearsal (but) it was one game. We don't put a lot of stock into it, but just a good showing."
Pittsburgh, which set a franchise record while leading the NFL with 56 sacks in 2017, never let Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota get comfortable.
Vince Williams, fresh off signing a new four-year contract last Thursday, took Mariota down in the first half.
So did defensive end Stephon Tuitt as the Steelers mixed and matched their defensive alignment far more frequently than they did in either of their first two preseason matchups.
"We don't show all of our cards, but that's part of the game," Heyward said. "We're putting little tidbits out there, stuff we've been working on. We'll just keep evolving. That's not something we're set with but that's part of the game. We have so many different fronts. Everybody has to be willing to play different spots and we'll be ready to go next game."
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The Titans did little on the ground to take some of the pressure off Mariota. Running backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for just 23 yards rushing.
"We are just trying to get after it," cornerback Joe Haden said. "We are just trying to make plays. As long as our communication and stuff is right, we have the talent."
Including, Haden believes, on the back end. Rookie first-round pick Terrell Edmunds showcased why the Steelers took him with the 28th overall selection, stepping in front of Mariota's pass late in the second quarter and returning it 30 yards.
Edmunds wasn't focused on his electric pick as much as the resiliency showed by the starters after Green Bay moved the ball with relative ease.
"Last week we took a bad 'L,'" Edmunds said. "We don't want to take any 'Ls' even if it is preseason. It's a big practice. It's a big open practice you could say."
There's one more to go before things start to get serious. The Steelers (2-1) finish up their exhibition schedule Thursday night against Carolina. Heyward and the rest of Pittsburgh's bold-faced names will get the night off.
For rookies such as inside linebacker Matthew Thomas 鈥?an intriguing prospect whose speed has caught the attention of the coaching staff and who ran with the starters for a handful of snaps on Saturday 鈥?it will be one last opportunity to show Tomlin they're worthy of one of the 53 roster spots. For the starters, it will be one last chance to catch their breath before the real grind begins.
"I think (Saturday) was a good stand for us to be able to have as many defensive players out there and play pretty well," Haden said.
"I think it's just the standard. This is something we want to continue to do and as long as we get more and more reps and everybody is healthy going into the season, we should be fine."
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