The Oklahoman

Owens an under-the-radar discovery

- Scott Wright

STILLWATER — It was the offseason when coaches first approached Rashod Owens about a position change.

As expected, Owens was happy to make the move.

Owens wasn’t yet at Oklahoma State, where he has played three different receiver positions in less than two full seasons. Owens wasn’t even committed to the Cowboys yet.

This particular position change came between Owens’ junior and senior seasons of high school at Roosevelt High in San Antonio.

As a junior, Owens had 589 yards as a receiver for Roosevelt, but it was clear to coach Matt Carroll that Owens was the most dangerous player on the field.

“We just needed to have the ball in his hands,” Carroll said. “We knew how dynamic he was, and he wasn’t touching the ball enough.”

So Carroll approached Owens about playing running back as a senior, so they could get the ball to him more frequently.

“I know you’re gonna go to college and play receiver, but we need you to play running back this year,” Carroll told him.

Owens came back with the only response he

ever gave in situations where the team’s best interest was involved.

“Yes, sir. Whatever you need,” Owens said.

Now a 6-foot-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman at OSU, Owens’ talent helped him get on the field in four games last season, and his team-first attitude has helped him become an impact player this year.

Having played all three receiver spots — both outside positions and in the slot — so far this year, Owens has at least one catch in four of five games. He’s coming off his best game, with three grabs for 53 yards and his first career touchdown two Saturdays ago against Baylor.

As the No. 12 Cowboys prepare to take on Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday in Austin, Owens’ role seems to be growing as his relationsh­ip with quarterbac­k Spencer Sanders becomes stronger.

Midway through his second season on the OSU campus, Owens’ future looks bright at one of the country’s premier colleges for producing receivers.

“He’s a very intelligen­t guy,” fellow receiver Tay Martin said. “I see it all the time in the meeting room, so I’m not surprised he’s able to pick up multiple positions. And he’s a big, physical guy as well.”

Folks back in San Antonio aren’t surprised to see Owens making plays early in his career. He was a special player for the Roosevelt football team, a talented basketball player and an elite high school triple-jumper. His junior year, he triple-jumped 49 feet, 10.75 inches, which ranked as the 11th-longest jump of the year in the United States.

In his senior football season, after he made the move to running back, he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, and was named the district’s most valuable player while helping Roosevelt to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

“That kid is just special,” said Danny Kloza, the head football coach at the Legacy of Educationa­l Excellence High School, a city rival of Roosevelt. “You watch him on film and you watch him in track, and you watch him grow up into the player he is — to be able to watch a talent like that come up is a special opportunit­y.

“Coming out of our school district and representi­ng San Antonio, Texas, I’m excited for that kid.”

The journey from Roosevelt to OSU was unique, because Owens — despite his size and rare athletic talents — was lightly recruited.

OSU defensive line coach Greg Richmond initially spotted Owens during his junior year and passed word along to receivers coach and offensive coordinato­r Kasey Dunn, who liked what he saw.

Between his football highlight tape and his track exploits, Owens began to pick up some attention, but not as much as those around him had hoped.

“As a coach, Rashod is the kid you want around you,” said Roosevelt High track coach John Garcia. “He’s got a good support system with his mother and father. He understood that grades needed to be taken care of.

“He was always a special athlete, and he never took that for granted. Good head on his shoulders, always understood academics and did whatever you asked of him.”

Still, he floated under the radar in recruiting, rated by as a twostar prospect with offers from Kansas, Tulane, Army, Texas-San Antonio and other mid-major programs. But the Oklahoma State offer changed everything. He committed soon after receiving the offer, without even taking an official visit to the campus.

“Oklahoma State has always been one of my dream schools, so having them talk to me was very exciting when I was getting recruited,” Owens said. “Even though I didn’t visit, I knew their system. They love passing. Coach Dunn produces receivers in the league. Me looking up to Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon, James Washington and everybody else, it impacted me more about where I wanted to be.”

So far, Owens is showing the signs of being another diamond-in-the-rough discovery for OSU.

“There wasn’t really a recruiting process. Nobody else recruited him,” head coach Mike Gundy said. “We ended up finding him, liking him, we did our research, offered him a scholarshi­p and he took it. He was a triple-jumper. He made plays on tape. I can’t give you a reason why nobody recruited him. I’d like to make the story better, but I don’t know why nobody recruited him.

“He works hard. He’s a good kid. Fits our culture and he’s doing good.”

 ?? NATE BILLINGS/FOR THE OKLAHOMAN ?? Oklahoma State’s Rashod Owens (10) runs after a catch against Missouri State earlier this season.
NATE BILLINGS/FOR THE OKLAHOMAN Oklahoma State’s Rashod Owens (10) runs after a catch against Missouri State earlier this season.
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