October 1, 2008 - by
Rod Owens: Jacksonville Feel Made FSU Seem Just Like Home

Oct. 1, 2008

The way Florida State wide receiver Rod
Owens tells it, the best competition in the
state of Florida comes from his hometown
of Jacksonville. While Owens could be talking
about the many high school rivalries that
make up the River City, at this particular moment
in time, he is discussing his greatest
football memory… Pop Warner football and
a playoff game involving another Jacksonville
native who happens to play for Florida
State, Tony Carter.

“The game I always think about is that
semifinal game against Tony Carter’s team,”
Owens said. “We went to double overtime
and he got hurt and I don’t think we would
have won if that didn’t happen.”

“We were actually supposed to be playing
on the same team,” Carter said. “But he
left and I was kind of his replacement, but I
got hurt late in the game and his team won,
but I was killing him before that.”

Pop Warner rivalries aside, Owens came
to Florida State by way of Wolfson High
School because Florida State felt like home.
In fact, the red-shirt junior did not even
take another official visit after his trip to
Tallahassee because he knew right then and
there that he wanted to be a Seminole.

“I fell in love with Florida State when I
came down here,” Owens said. “I wasn’t
sure what to expect, but I knew in my
heart on my official visit and once I came
here it felt like everything was right and I
was planning on taking more official visits,
but I just knew this was the place that
I wanted to be.”

Part of the reason Owens felt so at home
came from the Jacksonville flavor that
the Seminole team had with new teammates,
Tony Carter, Leon Washington, Pat
Harrington and Ron Lunford among others
all hailing from the same city. With
the help of his Jacksonville counterparts,
“Old School” as Owens’ teammates call
him, immediately made the transition to
life as a collegiate athlete.

“Coming here you are always going to have
a bond with guys who are from the same place
and we can relate to each other,” Owens said.
“We know how hard it is in Jacksonville because
there is a lot of talent there. They
helped teach me how important making
the right decisions is. They know how easy it
is to get in trouble and they had people who
cared about them to steer them in the right
direction and they took me under their wings
because I was a freshman and really didn’t
know anything yet.”

“It is definitely something special,” Carter
said. “I had always known Rod so every time
he came to Tallahassee Leon and I were his
hosts. We look after each other and we try
to stick together.”

While the adjustment on the field was
made easier thanks to his teammates, his
transition as a student-athlete came along
quickly thanks to the close proximity of
his family and friends. During especially
difficult periods Owens was able to make
the two hour drive home to Jacksonville to
see his family and discuss his new life at
Florida State. This was never more evident
than during his sophomore year when he
tore his ACL and had to sit out the entire
2006 season. While a season ending knee
injury can crush an athlete’s spirit, Owens’
received great support from those he was
closest to.

“Support is one of the best things you
can have, especially when you are making
a serious transition like from high school
to college,” Owens recalled. “Anytime I’m
going through something it’s good to have
my friends and my parents two hours away
because if I really need something they can
come up and see me, whereas if I was somewhere
else I would have to stay there and
suck it up.”

Owens’ trials and tribulations have helped
him pass along the lessons he has learned
to the Seminole’s new generation of Jacksonville
stars, in particular freshman wide
receiver Avis Commack.

“From day one Rod has helped me out,”
Commack said. “He’s helped me learn a lot
of stuff on and off the field. He’s been a really
good teammate. The guys from Jacksonville
make you feel like you’re at home.
They always check to see what you’re doing
on the weekends and making sure you’re
doing everything right.”

“It’s always good to return the favor and
do it for somebody else because I know
how much it helped me,” Owens said. “It’s
always good to have somebody who’s going
to be there for you because your parents
aren’t going to be around on Monday
or Tuesday during the week and it is always
good to have someone to talk to when you
are down.”

When you are proud of your city like Owens
is, it obviously means a little more when
you have the opportunity to play in front of
your home crowd. That is why having the
chance to run onto the field at Jacksonville
Municipal Stadium today against Colorado
in front of his friends and family brings an
instant smile to the wide receiver’s face.
Of course finding tickets to fill all of the
requests he has gotten can wipe that smile
away just as quickly.

“Everybody is asking for tickets,” laughs
Owens. “I think [friends] think we get however
many tickets we need.”

Whether or not Owens’ can fill every
ticket request there is no doubt that he will
have a cheering section that is bigger than
normal. And if he happens to make a big
play or two on his home turf, you can bet he
will feel that Jacksonville pride from wherever
supporters are watching the game.

By Layne Herdt
Sports Information Graduate Assistant

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