SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The player who wore No. 80 at Chattanooga as a tribute to Jerry Rice supplanted Rice as Steve Young's primary target in 1997. After Rice went down with a torn ACL early in the season, Owens finished with 936 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns as the 49ers won 13 games. In 1998, Owens made the game-winning catch as the 49ers rallied for a 30-27 victory against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC playoffs. He finished with nine catches for 177 yards, 2 TDs, a pair of two-point conversions and a pass completion.
“It was basically, ‘Were we going to be pretenders or contenders?’ I knew it was a long shot, down (28-14). But something had to be said. Something had to be done.”
Controversy remained a hallmark of Owens' career, including his trade to the Baltimore Ravens in 2004. Owens challenged the trade since he was an impending free agent and signed with the Eagles. They reached Super Bowl XXXIX in his first season, losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots. But Owens caught nine passes for 122 yards. “T.O. did a heck of a job,” head coach Andy Reid said. “I was proud of the effort.”
Controversy followed Owens to the Cowboys, who signed him after his release by the Eagles. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Cowboys, who also lost both playoff appearances in 2006-07. On Nov. 30, 2007, Owens celebrated a touchdown on Thursday Night Football against the Packers by jumping on the wall behind the end zone, grabbing a fan's popcorn, and dumping it into his helmet. That inspired one of his famous catchphrases:
“Get your popcorn ready!”