On draft day, Jack Del Rio talked about what an exciting kick-returner Chad Owens was and how Owens might pump life into the Jaguars' return game. Del Rio downplayed Owens' potential impact at the wide receiver position.
Well, the 5-7 kick-returner from Hawaii lined up with Jimmy Smith and Reggie Williams as the third wide receiver in a no-huddle offense this morning, and even though Del Rio cautioned reporters against "reading too much into that," it would certainly seem that Owens has established himself as something more than just a kick-returner. Del Rio, in fact, confirmed as much.
"He's a guy who has to be considered for a position and not just as a specialist," Del Rio said.
Wednesday morning's practice was a proud moment for a young man with an indefatigable personality. He listened to all of the critics who said football is not a game for small guys, then used those words to his advantage. He used what God gave him to overcome what God didn't give him.
"I've been this way my whole life, so it's not new to me. I'm going to use what God gave me. I love what I'm doing," the 5-7 Owens said.
He's one of those few players who don't need a number. That's not how you identify Owens. He's the smallest guy on the field. He's the one who appears to move more quickly than everybody else; play with more energy and enthusiasm than everybody else.
In a year in which the Jaguars selected Matt Jones because he's a big guy who can run, Owens was selected five rounds later because he's a little guy who can run. Here's the irony: Owens is the biggest hit of this training camp; not 6-4 Reggie Williams or the 6-6 Jones. At 5-7, Owens lit it up all spring and seems to be rising to an even higher level in the final week of this training camp.
"I believe I can make it in this league," Owens said.
Who would disagree?
"I'm constantly setting goals. My number one goal was to get drafted. The next goal was to prove I belong. I kind of feel like I've done that. My next goal was to play in a game. My next goal is to make the team; make the cut. You can never be satisfied," he said.
"That's how I did it all through college. Set my goal to play in college. Set my goal to be All-WAC. You take negative criticism and turn it into positive motivation. You have to continue to do that through your whole career," Owens added.
In this training camp, he has been asked to compete with David Allen for the kick-return job. Everyone, including Del Rio, thought it would be Owens' primary function. No one expected – probably not even Owens – that he would also be asked to learn all three wide receiver positions.
That's what he's done. He's not only a try-hard guy, he's a smart, polished receiver out of June Jones' sophisticated Hawaii pass-offense.
"The one thing I learned in college from coach Jones is that if he puts you in there he has to be able to trust you not to make a mistake," Owens said.
His accomplishments at Hawaii were so extreme that it may have been the reason they were largely ignored. He scored 22 touchdowns last season; 17 receiving and five on punt returns. He accounted for 1,866 all-purpose yards. He is, by strict definition, a playmaker.
"I guess I'm doing some things out here the coach likes," Owens said of the role in which he was used in this morning's practice. "I was always a positive thinker. I always believed anything is possible."