He stands as the second all-time leading receiver in the 93-year history of the NFL and didn't get there overnight.
While many may think back to his touchdown celebrations that included everything from popcorn to pom poms, Owens was much more than the league's greatest showman—he was a production machine that couldn't be stopped regardless of his surroundings, support systems, broken bones and adversity.
The following are the top 10 moments of Owens' illustrious career:
10) 222 Receiving Yards vs. Browns/Dominating the Steelers No. 1 Defense—Both in Defeat
At the age of 37, Owens did what most players couldn't do in their early 20s.
Stuck playing for one of the worst teams in football, backed by the league's 24th-ranked scoring defense and least efficient running game (32nd in YPC), Owens torched opposing defenses while playing part of the season with a broken hand.
Prior to his injury in Week 12 of the 2010 season, Owens was playing at a rate comparable to the prime of his career a decade prior.
Owens (2001): 93 receptions for 1,412 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Owens (2010—projected over 16 games): 99 receptions for 1,435 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In Week 4, Owens caught 10 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown—the Bengals lost.
During the game, he became the second-leading receiver in NFL history.
In Week 9 against the Steelers No. 1-ranked defense on Monday Night Football, Owens caught 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns—and the Bengals still lost.
During that game he became the third receiver in NFL history to catch 150 touchdowns.
Some idiot might say "See, it's not all about numbers." but hey, you can't expect the masses to understand an equation as complex as: touchdowns = points = individual contributions to your team's chances of winning.
Moral of the story: Football is a team sport.
9) Owens! Owens! Owens!
The game ended Mike Holmgren's career with the Packers and solidified Owens' status as an elite clutch performer.
8) Mocking Ray Lewis
It may not be a popular opinion, but nobody deserved to be mocked more than Ray Lewis in 2004.
Owens was criticized for comparing Lewis' off-the-field troubles to his lack thereof.
Owens has never been arrested in his life—it's a fair point of discussion.
Lewis, well known for his squirrel dance, was put to the test in a face-off of 1996 draft selections.
Even with the aid of 2004 Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed, Owens tore Baltimore's defense apart by catching eight passes for 101 yards and a game-clinching touchdown.
Lewis is applauded for dancing at the beginning of games prior to winning anything.
7) Sharpie for Showmanship and Charity
In another multiple touchdown performance under the Monday Night Football spotlight, Owens broke out a Sharpie and autographed the game ball.
His swagger created a nation-wide charity campaign to raise funds to deliver school supplies to under-privilleged children.
Of course, people tend to forget real press.
6) 2002 Playoff Comeback vs. the Giants
The wildest ever Wild Card finish saw another classic matchup between the 49ers and Giants.
After the Giants got out to a 38-14 lead, Owens' halftime speech motivated his teammates to step up their game—led by Owens who caught nine passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, the 49ers came back to win 39-38.
5) Revenge Games
Owens had a habit of coming out to play well against his former teams.
In 2005, he played against the San Francisco 49ers for the first time in his career.
Five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns later—his former team was humiliated, 42-3.
The misinformed believe that the 49ers cut Owens, but it was actually Owens who asked for his release from the team.
Without T.O. to help the 49ers, his new team, the Eagles, showed them what happens when a team parts ways with their best player.
Ironic seeing as the Eagles would soon fall victim to the very same treatment.
In 2007 Owens returned to Philadelphia and punished the Eagles for releasing him.
Ten receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown later—Owens and the Dallas Cowboys stood triumphant in Philadelphia.
Playing for those same Cowboys, Owens humiliated the 49ers again in 2008.
Seven receptions for 213 yards and a touchdown later—Owens' excellence stood as a testament to what happens when you under-appreciate the services of a legend.
He helped the 49ers and Eagles win games when he was part of their roster.
After a parting of the ways, Owens took victories away from them.
4) Leaving Philly as the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL
The Eagles made the idiotic move of deactivating Owens during the 2005 NFL season.
They struggled with injuries and even with Owens himself playing injured, his astronomical production helped the Eagles remain competitive.
Owens caught 47 passes for 763 yards and six touchdowns in only seven games.
Projected production over 16 games: 107 receptions for 1,744 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In his last game with the Eagles, Owens caught only three passes for 154 yards while burning Champ Bailey in his prime for a 91-yard touchdown.
The Eagles playoff hopes remained intact with a 4-3 record.
After deactivating Owens for the remainder of the season, the Eagles crumbled without their best player there to produce on the football field.
Consequence: They lost seven of their remaining nine games.
The Eagles foolish attempt to punish Owens ended up punishing their own fanbase most of all.
The team failed to make the playoffs as they were unable to produce and perform without Owens.
3) Celebrating on the Dallas Star
All they had to do was keep him out of the end zone.
It's not complicated—just incredibly difficult.
As Owens caught his first touchdown pass of the game on September 24, 2000, he went to celebrate on the middle of the Dallas star by looking up towards the heavens.
Nobody asks why of course.
Forgotten is the fact that his first trip to the Dallas star was done to honor a promise made to the team pastor. Owens wanted to show respect to God but looking up heavenward through the hole in Texas Stadium.
His second trip to the Dallas star was a result of Emmitt Smith having done so after Owens' first celebration—as if he was marking the team's home turf.
Blame the Cowboys secondary—they had every ability to prevent Owens' alleged "disrespect."
George Teague found it appropriate to physically attack Owens after the play—classless behavior that Owens would not reciprocate.
Teague was ejected from the game.
One has to ask themselves: What is worse, an over-the-top touchdown celebration or attacking another man from behind after the play was over?
At least Teague learned his lesson. (h/t ESPN SportsCentury)
"Don't talk to him. Leave him alone. He's one of those players that once you add fuel to the fire, then his game is going to elevate seriously." -George Teague
Cheap shots are easy to deliver when a man's back is turned.
Stopping Owens in his prime as he looks you straight in the eyes with every intention of celebrating the fact that you cannot stop him—priceless.
2) Jerry Rice's San Francisco Farewell
In the very last home game of Jerry Rice's career with the 49ers, it was Owens who stood triumphant as being the best player in the NFL.
For over 50 years, no one had ever caught more than 18 passes in a single game.
Tom Fears set the record in 1950—over 18,000 calendar days before Owens' historical performance.
Catching 20 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown—the torch was passed to the man who would later go on to become the second-leading receiver in NFL history.
1) Super Bowl XXIX on a Broken Leg
After spraining the deltoid ligament of his ankle, needing a screw implanted to help stabilize the joint and fracturing his fibula—Owens was declared all but done of the remainder of his first season with the Eagles.
The doctors refused to clear Owens to play in Super Bowl XXIX.
Owens refused to quit on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Considered by many to be "the most courageous performance in Super Bowl history", Owens took his game to another level against one of the best pass defenses of all time.
Catching nine passes for 122 yards, the Patriots had no answer for T.O.
"I'm on half a leg and they can't stop me." [2:21] -Terrell Owens
The film doesn't lie [6:28], Owens reserved the greatest performance of his career for the grandest stage of them all.
Taking into context his health, the weeks he was removed from action and the quality of competition he faced, Super Bowl XXIX stands tall as the greatest moment of Owens' career.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report and Featured Writer for www.blindsidefootball.com.
Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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