T.O.'s former coach says scars from being bullied "stayed with him'' and drove him to succeed


Terrell Owens may be the most misunderstood superstar in recent years. At least that’s how his Hall of Fame presenter, San Diego Chargers assistant head coach George Stewart feels about Owens.

Stewart has coached for 30 years in the NFL, including seven years with the 49ers. The last three of those seasons Stewart served as receivers coach of the Niners. All three years Owens was an All-Pro selection and it was during those years he developed a bond with Stewart so close that when he was selected to the Hall of Fame in February he knew who he wanted to be his presenter.

Long an advocate for the sometimes mercurial Owens, Stewart told Talk of Fame Network this week that “There’s a lot of layers with Terrell…I had to do a lot of digging…you have to go to the molten rock (to fully understand him). As a coach you had to understand he won’t give trust early.’’

Eventually he did to Stewart, who watched him emerge from the long shadow of Jerry Rice in San Francisco to become the third most prolific receiver in NFL history but also a man of constant controversy. Stewart attributes some of that to a difficult upbringing and some to a fiery desire to prove he belonged.

Stewart believes Owens was “bullied’’ growing up and considered “different…Those scars stayed with him,’’ Stewart said. “That’s my conclusion.’’

Stewart said Owens’ desire to prove he belonged led to some of his off-field problems with teammates, including quarterbacks Jeff Garcia in San Francisco and Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. But it also pushed him to become one of the game’s most prolific receivers, someone who once caught a then-record 20 passes on Jerry Rice Day. That was a memorable day but to learn the day Stewart remembers best tune into Talk of Fame Network’s weekly radio show and free podcast at iTunes, using the TuneIn app or on your local SB Nation radio network station. You can also find the show on our website at talkoffamenetwork.com.

In addition to Stewart’s remembrances of T.O., you’ll find an interview with three-time Super Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton, who talks about how the University of Texas prepared him for the NFL but not for the unselfish demands of playing nose tackle for the Steelers.

Hampton did that so well during his 12 seasons he was selected one of the greatest players in Steelers’ history despite having only nine sacks. Was that difficult to live with?

“What I did is almost totally extinct (in the NFL),’’ Howard says of playing two-gap nose tackle. “It took me probably into my second season to realize every play isn’t for me to make. You’ve got to be unselfish and see the bigger picture.’’

Hampton heaps praise on long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who he credits for teaching him both the demands of the nose tackle position and how to cope with its absence of stats after being a two-time All-America selection at Texas.

“He had a huge impact on my career,’’ Hampton said. “He was my favorite coach of all-time.’’

Talk of Fame co-host Rick Gosselin also states the case for long-forgotten former Baltimore Colts wide receiver Jimmy Orr. Orr scored a touchdown every 6.1 catches, exceeding Rice’s one every 7.8 catches and he was a home run hitter. Three times he averaged over 20 yards per catch and ended with a career average of 19.8 yards per catch, which ranks eighth best of all-time.

Co-hosts Ron Borges and Clark Judge join Rick in spirited conversation about Hall of Famer Rod Woodson ripping the Raiders’ Jon Gruden for firing him and most of their staff, debate the new catch rule and continue their ongoing series on the college programs that most consistently produce NFL talent by taking a long look at the University of Oklahoma program.

Lastly, our Hall of Fame guys visit with Mary Kay Cabot, a Hall of Fame voter and long-time beat reporter covering the Cleveland Browns, to debate whether former owner Art Modell belongs in Canton and if recently retired tackle Joe Thomas is likely to get there soon despite having spent his entire career with a team that could never win.