CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens, a two-sport athlete who also played college basketball, received quite an assist just hours before his Saturday induction speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Owens’ longtime friend, Dave Brown, traveled from the Pro Football Hall of Fame headquarters in Canton, Ohio, to Chattanooga via Atlanta on Saturday to deliver Owens’ gold Hall of Fame jacket in time for his 3:17 p.m. speech. Brown, who is friends with Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, as well, was partying with Lewis in Canton, which gave Brown the opportunity to pick up Owens’ jacket.
“I was like, ‘Don’t worry about you, I got you,’ and T.O. was like, ‘I trust you, baby,'” Brown told ESPN. “T.O. and Ray, they know who I am. At the end of the day, I’m going to make sure both are well represented.
“I went to the dinner [in Canton] where they gave the jackets out Friday. The Hall of Fame people, I had a conversation with them. They called me after the show and said they didn’t want to give out the jackets until they gave them all out, and I respected it. So they handed out the jackets, and they called me and said, ‘We’re over here at this table.’ I went to the table, and [they] gave me the box.”
Brown, a former basketball player at Morehouse College and current actor who founded the Indie Night Film Festival, said he celebrated with Lewis until 4 a.m. Saturday, then went straight to the Akron-Canton Airport.
“I’ve got to go stand-by coming out of Canton,” Brown explained. “I got the one seat that was left on the plane. The crazy part was that I’m walking around and nobody knew I had the gold jacket.”
Brown’s Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta left at 7:15 a.m. Once he arrived, he ran into another obstacle.
“Went I got to Atlanta, there was no [early] flight from Atlanta to Chattanooga,” Brown said. “Luckily, they thought ahead. They said, ‘Dave, if you don’t get on that flight, we’ve got a driver outside.’ So I went outside, jumped in the car, and drove down to Tennessee.”
The drive from the Atlanta airport to the downtown Doubletree Hotel, where Owens stayed, took about two hours. Once Brown arrived at 12:30 p.m. and connected with Owens, a strange thought entered his mind.
“T.O. was like, ‘Yo, did you open it up?’ And you know what? I didn’t open it up,” Brown said. “So what if the jacket wasn’t in there? But it was in there. [The Hall of Fame] did a great job of making sure that T.O. had what he needed to still honor him in his way. That’s respect.”
Owens, who declined an invitation to Canton as a protest to what he believes is a flawed voting system, mentioned the jacket ordeal during his post-speech news conference.
“I had some dialogue with David Baker, who’s the president of the Hall of Fame, with how to get my jacket here,” Owens said. “Initially, they weren’t going to get it to me unless I was there. They were going to mail it to me on Saturday. I wasn’t really too pleased about it. But we made it work.
“D-Brown, he made it happen. He was there. That just shows you really what true friends that I have. He didn’t have to do it, but he knew this was important for me.”
Brown would do the same again, and again.
“He’s like my little brother,” Brown said of Owens. “No matter what he was going through, we always talked. I always told him, ‘Don’t worry about it, man.’ You know who your true friends are. And I know T.O. I know who he is. And that’s why when I hear all this stuff that they say about him, that’s not him. He’s a great guy.”