Saturday, November 19 2011 1:59 AM EST2011-11-19 06:59:54 GMT
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team could not overcome a mid-game lull, falling 65-59 to visiting Kennesaw State Friday night.More >>
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- One of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's most notable graduates finally made his long-awaited return to campus Friday night.
Former UTC receiver and basketball player Terrell Owens made his first appearance in Chattanooga since leaving school for the NFL 15 years ago, taking in the Mocs' home opener at McKenzie Arena from a seat on the team's bench.
"I had the best time of my life playing basketball. I say this with all sincerity...I probably had a better time playing basketball than I did playing football," Owens said during a halftime radio interview with UTC play-by-play voice Jim Reynolds. "I had a special bond with those guys. Just being in this arena brings back a lot of memories."
Unfortunately for John Shulman's Mocs, they couldn't make a new memory for their special guest. Kennesaw State erased an early deficit to beat UTC 65-59.
"It was not a distraction at all. It was nice," Shulman said about having Owens on the bench. "For all the accomplishments that he has made at Chattanooga, he has put Chattanooga on the map. I apologize to him that we could not look any better than that.
"I actually thought that he would bring us a little bit of life to tell you the truth. I thought that he would bring us a little pick me up. That was the first time that I met TO. He is a class guy. I am sorry that we did not get it done for him."
While Owens had his moments on the hardwood inside The Roundhouse, his biggest achievements came on the gridiron at Chamberlain Field from 1992-95.
His breakout game came in 1993 when he had a school-record four touchdown receptions in a two-point win over defending national champ Marshall.
"You guys have your memories of that game. Of course it was a great game. We beat the defending National Champions 33-31 right here at Chamberlain Field," Owens recalled. "The next week we got out to practice...we are walking down to Scrappy Moore Field and Tommy West looks at me and said - You think you did something because you scored four touchdowns, you ain't done nothing yet.
"He just brought me right back down to earth. So I just kept plugging away."
Owens' 15-year NFL career, which includes one Super Bowl appearance, has included stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati, but never before had he gotten a chance to stop in for a visit at his alma mater.
He vowed to make it a priority moving forward.
"This University gave me an opportunity to come here and play football and go to school. I feel like I have made the most of it," he said. "I love Chattanooga and I feel bad just being here now that I have not made it back sooner. I am glad to be here. I am going to be back sooner than later.
"It won't be another 15 years for me to get back. I love Chattanooga and it has been great."
Owens, who was invited back to campus by the athletic department as part of an alumni event Saturday night, is also slated to attend the Mocs' home football finale against Wofford on Saturday afternoon at Finley Stadium.