Terrell Owens spoke at length Wednesday night for the first time since failing to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Owens phoned into Buffalo News sports reporter Tim Graham's radio show on 1270 The Fan, explaining in depth what has bothered him the most about being snubbed for the second straight year.
The following is the complete transcript of that interview:
Question: What is that has bothered you most about this process?
Terrell Owens: "No. 1, I think it’s just the judgment on my character. The issue that’s been brought up or some narratives have been brought up with whom they’ve talked to, I guess these are voters that obviously have a say-so in whether I get in or not. You listen to guys like Bill Polian and Dan Fouts that have said, you know coaches and players have come to them or pulled them to the side and said that I was a horrible teammate. That’s what really rubs me the wrong way, because I know, No. 1, how I was raised.
"When you talk about character, that’s a sensitive subject for me, because I know who I am as a person. Just because I had some disagreements with some coaches or some players, that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person or disruptive or a locker-room cancer as they would have it. In terms of a number of things that they’ve brought up to as far as teams who were waiting to get rid of me, again, that’s false information that they’re feeding to the public to justify why they didn’t, you know, induct me.
"So that’s really kind of where I stand. Again, I’m not really bitter about not getting in. Because at this point, the Hall of Fame, considering what I’ve done throughout my career, and my stats, I’m not a third-, fourth-, sixth-year guy to get in, if it takes that long for me to get in. Considering my body of work and what I’ve done on the football field, that should be justification in itself for me to have gotten in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and definitely, you know, this year. Again, I’m not bitter in that regard. But when it comes to questioning my character and what I did in that locker room, the thing that a lot of people are missing, is these coaches and these people are saying that I’m this type of person in the locker room, well who are those guys? Nobody’s attaching any names to anything. They’re just saying, ‘oh, this is what I heard.’ If you go look at a number of social media outlets and platforms, I’ve had a number of players that have played with me that have come out and said nothing but great things and said basically the polar opposite of what they’re claiming as far as me being a locker room distraction or me being divisive."
Owens interrupts a question dealing with the idea that "teams couldn't wait to get rid of him" ...
TO: "This was a myth of all the things that were happening that I guess would give them some validation that I was a bad teammate or my character was in question. So again, it brings up the question, is there any validity to what they're saying?"
Q: Why do you think this happens to you?
TO: "Like my grandmother has always taught me and what she’s always said, you know, is people are going to talk about you good or bad, always be who you are. Be the person that she raised me to be. At the end of the day, when I try to just really find a silver lining in all of this, but to your question, for me, I think there’s something bigger to me than the Hall of Fame.
"I was talking to Michael Irvin right before I got in the car. As I expressed to him, I don’t really need the Hall of Fame to validate what I did and who I am. Obviously what I did, the Hall of Fame, that should validate it. But now it’s something else, now they’re adding to the bylaws or they’re adding extra things to the criteria to be inducted. For me, that’s where I’ve lost all respect for it in a sense. Because, again, from where I stand and the years I’ve played, and what I know of the Hall of Fame, that’s what it’s always been about. It’s now people factoring in character issues and as you just mentioned, people bringing up all these fallacies, about teams were waiting to get rid of me. It’s like they’re moving the needle every time that it’s my turn to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. It would have meant something probably my first year. It didn’t happen. This year, but after that, I’m indifferent about it."
News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan then challenged Owens on that point.
TO: "You can call it how you want to call it, you see it how you want to see it," Owens responded. "Trust me, my friends and my family know how I feel about it. It is what it is. I’m more upset because I know that a lot of fans and a lot of friends and family, they were more excited about me going in than I probably was for myself. So just the outcry and the outpouring of support that people have show, that lets you know that something is wrong. So for me, it doesn’t bother me if I get in or not."
Q: How do you think you'll address this controversy in your speech when you do get in?
TO: "I haven’t even looked that far down the road. I really haven’t. But I will say, I had one of my coaches that coached me, Ray Sherman, he messaged me, and he said he’s sick of it. He said if anybody wants to know about who I am as a person and a player … those are the ones that saw me on an every-day basis, dealt with me on an every-day basis. Anyone that’s giving them information behind closed doors or in your little whisper pods, it really doesn’t mean a hill of beans to me. Go ask the people that actually have coached me. Those are Ray Sherman, Larry Kirksey, George Stewart, wouldn’t you think that they would know what type of person that I am? They coached me and saw me every day.
Q: When's the last time you used your key to the city?
TO: "I have free access over there."
Q: What's your favorite wings spot?
TO: "I didn’t really eat wings. This is what you guys don’t really know about me. I eat relatively healthy, so I didn’t really go to any wing stops or any wing places. Even when I was in Philly, I never ate a cheese steak. ... These are things you guys don’t know, but you probably thought you knew about me.
"That’s why I was able to do the things that I was able to do on the football field, because I took care of my body. Longevity."
Q: You were viewed negatively over your career. ... Do you think in some way this will help you in how you're viewed 10, 15 years from now?
TO: "Maybe, maybe not. Everybody has access to the internet. I mean, technology is at everybody’s disposal, so again, guys, trust me, in terms of who I am, my character, trust me, I know my character’s intact. Just because I had some situations or disagreements with coaches or players, I’m not the first one that has ever done that. I’m not the first one that’s ever done that, and probably not the last.
"So that’s what really brings up the question, why me? But at the end of the day, as I told you, obviously God has something more in store for me bigger than the Hall of Fame. Trust me, I do not need the Hall of Fame to validate what I’ve done in my career. Would it have been awesome? Yes, absolutely. My stats, whatever, it speaks for itself. But again, now you're changing, as Shannon Sharpe and all these other guys have mentioned, now you're adding things on to keep me out."
Graham suggests that Owens might be upset that there is an "assassination of character going on."
TO: "You got guys like Bill Polian saying I made teams worse. The narratives brought up is that teams were ready to get rid of me. Like, are you serious? I've had a lot of fan engagement on Twitter this past week or so. NFL contracts are not guaranteed, so if I was that bad a person and if I was such a detriment to the team, then why didn't they just get rid of me? Why? They could have, easily. Just as quick as they signed me, they could have unsigned me."
Graham suggests the same process could repeat itself next year with Owens and Randy Moss, who will be eligible for the first time.
TO: "It's crazy. I'm glad you said that. There are people that have had DUIs, domestic violence, criminal indictments and my name gets brought up in the same sentence. I've never done anything of that, so go figure."
Q: Do you think going on Twitter to defend yourself could hurt you?
TO: "That's what my grandmother always told me to do: defend myself. Don't allow people to run over you, because if allow them to do it, they'll continue to do it. That's how I was all throughout my career. I'm not gonna allow someone to step over me, run over me, none whatsoever. I have a voice, I did that when I was in the locker rooms. ... I'm confident in my character and who I am. There have been guys that have spoken out on my behalf that were my teammates that witnessed some of the stuff that was going on. So it's funny how they don't take any of those quotes from these guys who were my teammates and coaches into consideration. Why is it only a select few? A select few can't speak for the majority. So that's why I say it's a flawed process. The information they've been given is not accurate."
Listen to the entire Owens interview here: