How OSU receiver Rashod Owens went from third-string to Bedlam legend

How OSU receiver Rashod Owens went from third-string to Bedlam legend

In Saturday’s Bedlam finale, OSU had an unexpected standout whose story of resilience and patience should be as much a part of his Bedlam legend as his 10 catches.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Nov 7, 2023, 9:00am CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Nov 7, 2023, 9:00am CST

STILLWATER — Rashod Owens ran a quick slant up the right sideline, and when he turned around to look for the football, it was already in the air.

High in the air.

Alan Bowman’s short pop pass seemed destined to sail over Owens’ head. Way over. Instead, the Oklahoma State receiver leaped high in the air, and darned if he not only got a hand on the ball but also caught the thing.

Owens popped off the Boone Pickens Stadium turf after making the catch and nodded his head.

“Just trust myself to keep fighting for the ball,” he said of what he was thinking in that moment.

On that play, just the fourth of the game, OU had to know it was in for a fight. If Owens, a little-used player for more than three seasons at OSU, was going to make a play like that, it had to be clear the Cowboys had come to play.

And they had.

No one brought the fight to the Sooners quite like Owens, who had 10 catches for 136 yards and seven catches went for first downs. He entered this season, his fourth as a Cowboy, with only 25 career catches. He switched positions more often than some college students switch underwear, going from receiver to Cowboy back, the OSU fullback-tight end hybrid, to tight end back to receiver.

But with the Cowboys’ receiving corps thinned by injury, Owens has found a new position.

Go-to receiver.

“I don’t know what to say about Rashod Owens,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “Owens started the year as a backup.”

Actually, he didn’t just start the year that way. He went all the way until the Kansas State game before he became a starter. Since then, he has 33 catches for 408 yards, surpassing his totals for his first three seasons combined as a Cowboy.

“He’s a perfect example of you never know what a young man can do if given the chance to be in a situation,” Gundy said.

“It’s pretty cool when a young man gets a chance to play and was willing to step up and compete and make plays. Those guys are special to me.”

Truthfully, there aren’t a lot of Rashod Owenses left in college football. With the transfer portal, you don’t often see talented guys who play sparingly for several years, then decide to stay put. Most seek more playing time. Most go somewhere else.

Not Owens.

Why not?

“Just because of the relationships I’ve built with not just the teammates but with the coaches and everything,” he said after a recent practice. 

“I just didn’t want to start a whole new journey over again.”

That’s an old-school mentality in a lot of ways. Thinking about college athletics as relational, not transactional. Viewing yourself as part of something more permanent than one or two seasons. One way isn’t better than another.

But for Owens, it paid off.

Even early this season when he was buried down the depth chart and only getting a handful of snaps, he said he didn’t get frustrated. He credits his parents and his coaches throughout his early days who readied him for those moments.

“They always taught me about patience,” he said. “Not everything is gonna go your way as early as possible. But at some point, the more work that you put in and if you keep grinding, then it’s gonna end up showing.

“I’m just blessed that I was taught about patience.”

So is OSU.

Owens gave the Cowboys the best game of his career in one of the biggest games in program history. Maybe they would’ve won the Bedlam finale without Owens, but with the Sooners packing defenders at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow Ollie Gordon, the Cowboys had to make them pay with the pass game.

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Owens did.

When I mentioned to Owens that he had almost 150 yards receiving, his eyes widened.

“It’s just a blessing for the quarterback, the line, the offensive coordinator, head coach to all trust in me to go out there and make plays,” he said.

Bowman said trusting in Owens was easy.

For starters, Owens is 6-foot-2, 219 pounds. His measurables are comparable to most linebackers. OSU’s starters, for example, are Nick Martin at 6-foot, 215 pounds; Xavier Benson at 6-2, 224 pounds; and Collin Oliver at 6-2, 235 pounds.

Owens, then, is going to be much bigger than most safeties and cornerbacks.

But he’s more than a big-body receiver.

“I honestly don’t think that there’s anyone on this team that wants the ball more than Rashod Owens in the air,” said Bowman, who threw the ball Owens’ way a whopping 17 times on Saturday. “Or wants to win more than Rashod Owens. He cares so much. He was the guy yelling at us in the huddle Game 1 when he was the third-string receiver. And he’s the guy yelling at us in the huddle in Bedlam when he’s the starting receiver.

“So I think you can trust a guy throwing the ball up to him knowing that he wants it more than the other guy, and it’s not even close. That’s why I’ve trusted him.”

The passion and resiliency that Owens has shown has resonated with lots of his teammates, but Bowman appreciates it as much as any. He dealt with a couple of collapsed lungs at Texas Tech, then transferred to Michigan where he sat the bench for two years before moving to OSU.

Bowman said the way he put his head down and kept working, Owens did the same. 

“It doesn’t matter — work hard,” Bowman said. “As long as you work hard, it will pay off, and I firmly believe that. 

“Rashod is a hard worker, and it’s paid off for him.”

Owens points back to that one-handed grab he made Saturday. He traced his path to that moment back to all the practices he’s been in with OSU offensive coordinator and receivers coach Kasey Dunn. He works with his pass-catchers every day on the JUGS machine. He makes it spit out unrealistic passes. High velocity. Weird angles.

“He basically tells us, ‘Go for it. Concentrate and try to make a play on it,’” Owens said.

He did that repeatedly Saturday, patience and resilience turning a third-teamer into a Bedlam legend.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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