TORONTO - The Flyin’ Hawaiian has proven to be a grounded man.
Chad Owens acknowledged on Tuesday that he could have run to the money had he signed with the New York Jets.
Instead, Owens, voted the most outstanding special teams player in the Canadian Football League last season, re-signed with the Argonauts, putting his signature on a new contract that will keep him in Double Blue through 2013.
“There’s definitely the potential of a whole lot more (money) when you’re talking about the NFL,” Owens said during a conference call from his off-season home in Hawaii.
“But if they paid the players in the CFL and the NFL the same, I would be back in Toronto anyway.”
How much Owens left in the envelope is unclear. His new deal is expected to pay him in excess of $150,000 a year and his agent, Richard Burnoski, said the pact makes Owens “the highest-paid player at his position in CFL history.” A signing bonus is thought to have been higher than $50,000.
Owens had been seeking at least a six-figure bonus from the Jets. Also, he reportedly worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The notion that the NFL could endure a work stoppage entered into Owens‚ decision.
“I looked at everything and that was part of it,” Owens said. “I’m a man of faith and believed that no matter what, everything would be okay.”
The lure of the NFL was strong, even though Owens could easily have been lost in the shuffle. He had been property of the Jaguars and Buccaneers previously.
“I thought (the decision to stay with the Argos) would be a no-brainer, especially considering how much fun I had last year,” Owens said. “It ended up being hard. I’m a human being. The goal (for a football player) is to play in the NFL.”
Whatever the case, it’s refreshing to know that a professional athlete didn’t simply take the contract that had the most zeroes on it. This isn’t something that happens often.
Owens and the Argos now can look forward to 2011, and try to ensure that his numbers remain at least relatively the same, if not better. Acquired from the Montreal Alouettes in June, so close to the beginning of the regular season that the Argos did not have time to include his profile in their media guide, Owens began to rack up some eye-popping numbers.
By the time the Argos stunned much of the CFL and ended with a 9-9 record and a playoff spot, Owens had become just the fifth player in CFL history to compile 1,000 punt return yards and kickoff return yards in one season.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Owens, who turns 29 on April 3, led the CFL with 3,288 combined yards and tied for the league lead with four kick return touchdowns. In a TSN poll, 43.7% of players said Owens was the biggest threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Fact is, general manager/head coach Jim Barker should have popped a cork on Tuesday night. There’s no way the Argos could have afforded to have lost Owens to the NFL.
“Chad is a prime-time guy,” Barker said. “He epitomizes everything we want an Argo to be, and not just on the field.”
We won’t know until the 2011 regular season starts to unfold whether opposing teams have devised ways to make Owens’ job more difficult. But few players in the CFL are, pound for pound, as fearless as Owens, and that’s one aspect that won’t change.
“If, statistically, I have a worse season and we win the Grey Cup, I’ve done my job,” Owens said. “I’ll continue to work harder to be a smarter player, and I have one year under my belt. The way that (Barker) welcomed me, I felt the aloha. I can go in any time and talk to him ... I feel at peace and know in my heart that I made the right decision.”