No one gave him a chance. When Montell Owens, the smallish running back from Maine was moved to safety in the middle of the 2006 training camp, he was generally considered to have graduated into the ranks of "training camp body."
Two years later, however, Owens is a star special teams player. He's a player the Jaguars value as an important cog in their pursuit of the Super Bowl.
"He works. He's improved so much. He's what you want," special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said of Owens.
Owens first caught DeCamillis' eye in a preseason game in Owens' rookie year. At that time, DeCamillis was the special teams coach of the Atlanta Falcons and Owens turned in a special performance against DeCamillis' units that night. It was a performance that earned Owens a spot on the Jaguars roster.
"He was on my radar at that time. If he had been cut, I would've tried to get him," DeCamillis said.
Now, DeCamillis is Owens' coach with the Jaguars and DeCamillis sings Owens' praises as no other coach does of one of his charges.
"To be really good on teams, you have to want to be really good on teams and he does. The second thing is you have to have real speed and he's got that. The third thing is you have to have toughness and he's got that," DeCamillis said.
DeCamillis goes so far as to say that had Owens been left on defense, he may have become a star there.
"I just have passion for the game," Owens said.
His game is special teams play. He fully embraces it and that's not a natural tendency for a player who was a star running back in college. When Maine upset Mississippi State a few years ago, Owens was the player who closed out the game by running the ball and running out the clock.
The Jaguars pursued him intensely in undrafted free agency and Owens bought into the sales pitch.
"It was an opportunity. I get the most out of every opportunity," he said.
"I knew I was at the bottom of the totem pole. If they want you to move to safety, you have to move to safety. Wherever your mind goes, that's where your performance goes," he said.
He didn't, however, make the team as a safety. He made it on the strength of his special teams play.
"That's the role I embraced," Owens said.
As a result, Owens will be a candidate to make the Pro Bowl as a special teams performer this year. DeCamillis, who has coached such special teams stars as Travis Jervey, Kevin McCadam and Gary Downs, believes Owens has a chance to become the best special teams player he's ever coached.
Owens is also working at fullback, where he has devastating blocking potential and surprisingly strong pass-catching ability.
"I do have goals beyond (special teams). My role is to hold the special teams unit together. That'll come in due time," he said of fullback. "I have faith that, as long as I put my hardhat on, that'll come in time."