Terrell Owens: Broke and desperate

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens laughs while warming up prior to his NFL football game...

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens laughs while warming up prior to his NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio Oct. 3, 2010.( REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:08 PM ET

Terrell Owens is 38, an unemployed receiver, who blew through $80 million like he used to blow through NFL secondaries.

Brash, self-absorbed and now broke, Owens believes he can still play in the NFL. He better be right because, as illustrated by the photo in GQ, he has given away everything including the shirt off his back.

He blames the media.

He blames his advisors.

He blames the Cowboys for telling him he would be part of the future; then releasing him instead.

And, now for something new: He blames himself!

“I hate myself for letting this happen,” Owens told the magazine. “I believed that they (his agents) had my back when they said, ‘You take care of the football, and we’ll do the rest.’”

The rest has turned out as it too often does for professional athletes. “If the public understood that 78% of athletes two years out of the game are either bankrupt, divorced or unemployed, they would have a much graver understanding of how difficult this lifestyle is,” Bob LaMonte, an educator, member of the board at New York University, and a player agent for more than three decades, told Sun Media in a recent series on the darker side of fame.

That side brought Owens to Fort Worth Wednesday, where he was being introduced as a member and part owner (along with former Cowboys’ receiver Drew Pearson) of the Allen Wranglers, of the Indoor Football League. Truth is, he’s not doing this for love of the game. Owens is doing it because he could make up to $500,000 and it is his way to prove he can still play the game; still get back to the NFL; still recoup a lost fortune.

The crowd was estimated at 700; Pearson is hoping Owens will bring in more fans. And, more money. Owens always has attracted a crowd and attention, if not always for the right reasons. He is considered one of the great receivers in NFL history. A six-time Pro Bowler, he is second in league history in receiving yards (15,934), tied for second in receiving touchdowns (153) and sixth in catches (1,078).

But his ego always dwarfed his immense talent. There was always another cheque in the mail, friends, women, and a good time that seemed to know no end. Then came the U.S. housing crunch. Owens blames agent Drew Rosenhaus for failing to protect him from bad investments. Owens said financial advisers recommended by Rosenhaus lost his money in highly leveraged (some borderline illegal) ventures and the housing market collapse. “And in the end, they just basically stole from me.”

But if they messed up his finances, it was Owens himself who blew up his personal life.

It is said that he is devoted to his children — the problem is trying to figure out who his children are, or even where they are, with four different mothers. Owens claims to pay $62,366/month for various properties and says his own home in Georgia is in foreclosure. He has dutifully paid $44,400 in child support to the four women with whom he has children but has now filed court papers seeking a reduction claiming zero income; zero assets.

This is the descent into melancholy for a man who mocked defensive backs, taunted opponents and generally spit life in the eye. The money, the friends, the applause, even the loathing he engendered and somehow fed from; they are all gone.

When people text him to ask where he is these days, Owens has replied: “I’m in hell.” The man who had, and knew, everything, has come to nothing.

So he is running the most important football route of his life. It is leading him through middling, half-forgotten arenas, where he plays in the shadow of his own renown, attempting to catch the past. Life as a pro athlete isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. When the champagne goes flat and the trophy women disappear, all that is often left are the empty shells of lost heroes.

“I have no answers as for why I’m here,” Owens told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I know God works in mysterious ways. It was an opportunity for myself and my family. I haven’t retired from the NFL. I want to play a couple more years. I know I’m physically fit to play the game still.”

Destiny still calls him, but to what, has for Owens become a cruel riddle.

QUICK HITS

The Steelers introduced offensive coordinator Todd Haley Thursday. “Needless to say, we’re extremely excited” about hiring Haley, head coach Mike Tomlin said. But he declined to answer questions, including whether club ownership forced him to hire Haley. “We find pleasure in being something of a mystery,” he said ... Patriots’ Wes Welker becomes a free agent March 13 and the club is expected to put the franchise tag on him ... It’s expected the Chargers will let receiver Vincent Jackson become a free agent rather than franchise tag him at a cost of more than $13 million ... Bengals CB Leon Hall is recovering from a torn Achilles’ ... The Broncos re-signed FB Austin Sylvester.


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