Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens cemented his legacy as one of the greatest receivers to ever play the position. The theatrical wideout known as T.O. also established himself as one the game’s most notorious showmen. Whether he was signing the game ball with a sharpie after scoring a TD or appearing in a bizarre “Monday Night Football” introduction, Owens always found the spotlight.
Owens, who ranks No. 3 all-time with 15,934 receiving yards, has a nearly unmatched career resume. In 15 NFL seasons, Owens collected 153 receiving TDs — the third-most in league history. He ranks eighth all-time in receptions (1,078).
Spending his first eight seasons (1996-2003) with the San Francisco 49ers, Owens eventually suited up for five teams in total. The Philadelphia Eagles rode the T.O. roller coaster for two seasons (2004-05) and reached a Super Bowl with the star receiver before eventually cutting him.
Following his release from the Eagles, Owens inked a deal with the Dallas Cowboys. He played for the Cowboys for three years (2006-08), leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns in his first year with the club.
In his illustrious career, Owens made six Pro Bowls and earned five First-team All-Pro selections. To celebrate his greatness, let’s count down the eight best moments from the legendary career of T.O.
8. Mocks Ray Lewis’s squirrel dance
Game: Regular season vs. Baltimore Ravens
When: October 31, 2004
Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis was known for his defensive excellence—and his obnoxious squirrel dance.
Up against one of the league’s stingiest defenses, Owens torched the Lewis-led Ravens with eight receptions for 101 yards and a critical fourth-quarter touchdown. Upon reaching the end zone, Owens mocked Lewis’s signature dance.
7. Revenge vs. 49ers
Game: Regular season vs. San Francisco 49ers
When: September 18, 2005
Playing in his first contest against his former team of eight years, Owens exploded for 143 yards and two touchdowns. The defending NFC champion Eagles routed the 49ers 42-3 at Lincoln Financial Field in their home opener.
Eagles QB Donovan McNabb connected with Owens on a 68-yard TD on the third play from scrimmage. McNabb tied a career-best with five passing touchdowns, finishing 23-of-29 for 342 yards in just three quarters of action.
6. “Get your popcorn ready”
Game: Regular season vs. Green Bay Packers
When: November 29, 2007
The Cowboys and Packers entered Week 13 of the 2007 NFL season with identical 10-1 records. In the battle for the NFC’s top seed, the Cowboys prevailed 37-27 behind a brilliant outing from Owens. Dallas ended the year 13-3 and secured the No. 1 seed in the conference, earning the tiebreaker over the Packers (who also went 13-3) by virtue of this victory.
Owens posted a game-high 156 receiving yards with a touchdown, which he celebrated in vintage T.O. form. Owens—who famously said after signing with the Cowboys, “get your popcorn ready, because it’s going to be a show”—commemorated his TD by dumping popcorn into his face mask.
5. Desecrates the Dallas Star at Texas Stadium
Game: Regular season at Dallas Cowboys
When: September 24, 2000
Long before his tenure with the Cowboys, Owens made his mark in Dallas.
Back in 2000, Owens registered two receiving scores in the 49ers’ win over the Cowboys. But, it’s what he did after the touchdowns that stood out.
Owens caught a three-yard TD pass from Jeff Garcia in the second quarter. Owens then sprinted to midfield, placed the ball down in the middle of the Cowboys Star and raised his arms to revel in his glory.
On the Cowboys’ ensuing possession, Emmitt Smith scored on a 1-yard TD and mimicked Owens’ exact celebration.
Owens collected his second TD reception of the contest in the fourth quarter. He sprinted to the star again, but this time was promptly tackled by Cowboys safety George Teague. The teams engaged in a mild skirmish after Teague hit Owens.
4. Leads 49ers to 24-point playoff comeback
Game: 2002 NFC Wild Card vs. New York Giants
When: January 5, 2003
In one of the craziest contests the wild-card round has ever seen, the host 49ers erased a 38-14 third-quarter deficit to win 39-38.
Inspired by Owens’ speeches at halftime and in the huddle during the final quarter, the 49ers scored the last 25 points to advance. At the time, it was the second-biggest comeback in NFL postseason history.
Owens hauled in nine passes for 177 yards and two TDs. He caught TD passes of 76 and 26 yards from QB Jeff Garcia. Owens and Garcia connected on a two-point conversion in the final period to cut the Giants’ lead to 38-30.
Jeff Chandler hit a 25-yard field goal to trim the margin to five, before Garcia tossed the game-winning 13-yard TD to Tai Street with one minute remaining.
3. The Catch II
Game: 1998 NFC Wild Card vs. Green Bay Packers
When: January 3, 1999
The 1998 49ers won 12 games, but found themselves playing during wild-card weekend. Hosting the Packers at Candlestick Park, the 49ers trailed 27-23 with 1:56 to play after Brett Favre slung a 15-yard TD to Antonio Freeman.
Steve Young drove the 49ers down the field to the Packers’ 25-yard-line. With eight seconds left on the clock and devoid of any timeouts, the 49ers were down to their final play. Owens, the third-year WR who lost a fumble and dropped a touchdown in the first half, was unproductive for the majority of the contest. But he managed to come through with an iconic reception that will forever be a part of 49ers’ playoff folklore.
Young threaded a pass between three defenders and found Owens, who hung on to the ball for the game-winning TD despite two defenders hitting him in the end zone.
The connection from Young to Owens was reminiscent of ‘The Catch,’ which occurred during the waning moments of the 1981 NFC Championship. Joe Montana threw the TD pass to Dwight Clark known as ‘The Catch’ that helped the 49ers beat the Cowboys and advance to the Super Bowl.
2. 20 catches, 283 yards overshadow Jerry Rice’s final 49ers home game
Game: Regular season vs. Chicago Bears
When: December 17, 2000
Jerry Rice played his last game at Candlestick Park as a member of the 49ers in 2000. Rice, widely recognized as the greatest receiver in NFL history, was not the center of attention by game’s end as Owens delivered a performance for the ages.
Owens racked up 20 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown. His 20 catches were an NFL record at the time. Brandon Marshall eventually broke the single-game reception mark with 21 catches in 2009. His 283 yards rank 11th all-time for receiving yards in a single contest.
Wrapping up his fifth NFL season, Owens established himself as the best receiver in the league with this legendary showing.
1. Dominates Super Bowl XXXIX on broken leg
Game: Super Bowl XXXIX vs. New England Patriots
When: February 6, 2005
Owens missed the final two regular-season games in 2004 after breaking his right leg and tearing a ligament in his right ankle. He was sidelined for the Eagles’ playoff wins in the divisional round and in the NFC title match.
Miraculously, Owens returned to action just seven weeks removed from suffering a broken leg to play in Super Bowl XXXIX. In one of the most courageous moments in league history, Owens fought through indescribable pain and caught nine passes for 122 yards. He played 62 of 72 offensive snaps and nearly led the Eagles to an upset victory over the Patriots, who captured their third title in four seasons with the 24-21 win.
In Super Bowl XXXIX, Terrell Owens did the unthinkable by playing with a broken leg and torn ankle ligament.
He caught nine passes for 122 yards.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) February 2, 2019
Owens defied doctors orders to play in the Super Bowl. In fact, medical experts claimed Owens was risking his career by taking the field. Owens proved his biggest critics wrong, many of whom questioned his passion for football and his commitment to winning, by jeopardizing his career in an effort to win a championship.