Argonauts' Owens combines for hard yards | Football | CBC Sports

CFLArgonauts' Owens combines for hard yards

Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2011 | 12:31 AM

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Toronto Argonauts kick returner Chad Owens runs upfield during first half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos in Toronto on Friday October 21, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn Toronto Argonauts kick returner Chad Owens runs upfield during first half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos in Toronto on Friday October 21, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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Michael Clemons calls Chad Owens "Extrasplendifiscent," a combination of extraordinary, splendid and magnificent.
 
We'll allow that, as the man tagged as "Pinball" has always reminded us of a character from a Disney movie anyway.
 
It was around the nine-minute mark of the second quarter on Friday night that Owens took a punt at his 13-yard line, ran through the first line of Edmonton defenders, juked left and up the sideline before being boxed in.

Michael Clemons calls Chad Owens "Extrasplendifiscent," a combination of extraordinary, splendid and magnificent.
 
We'll allow that, as the man tagged as "Pinball" has always reminded us of a character from a Disney movie anyway.
 
It was around the nine-minute mark of the second quarter on Friday night that Owens took a punt at his 13-yard line, ran through the first line of Edmonton defenders, juked left and up the sideline before being boxed in.
 
He was finally pulled down after failing to shake three more Eskimos, despite the best Argentine Tango move since Donny Osmond on Dancing With The Stars.
 
After a subtraction for an illegal block, 36 yards were added to the Flyin' Hawaiian's totals and put him over 3,000 combined (receiving, rushing, punt, kickoff and missed field goal returns) for the second straight season - a pro football record.
 
Only one other player, Clemons himself, has done it twice in a career in the CFL (it would be nearly impossible to do it once in the NFL as they don't kick enough - Derrick Mason of Tennessee has the all-time mark for one year at 2,690).
 
At the Rogers Centre, seeing the number on the screen the fans in attendance (an exclusive group) gave Owens a nice ovation and then, likely as not, forgot all about it.

Takes a beating
 
The guys on the other sidelines sure paid attention however, and they were filled with praise for what the Argo had done.
 
"That's tough," said Fred Stamps, who himself is known for being hard to knock down. "That's a big accomplishment for Chad to do that in two consecutive seasons.
 
"He probably takes the most beating on the field, him and the quarterbacks, because he's catching punts, people are getting shots at him, kickoff too, they get shots at him, and then he's a receiver and can make big plays."
 
After the Argos' lost 31-24 to Edmonton, Owens' marks for the year stood at 1,671 yards in kickoff returns, 662 in punt returns, 695 yards passing, 105 off missed field goals and six rushing. That's 3,140, already ninth best in history for one season with two games to go.

But there's something about the combined yards stat that fails to excite the average fan, unless the man doing it was Michael Lutrell Clemons himself, and that seemed more because of his size (official listed at 5-foot-6, in lifts) and his bubbly personality as much as the yards themselves sometimes.
 
The problem with combined yards - perhaps the most undervalued number in the CFL - may be that it isn't as clearly connected to scoring points or winning games as some of the others.
 
If you throw for 400 yards, chances are you scored a bunch of points. If you rushed for 150 yards, there might be a touchdown or two thrown in.
 
But combined yards provide field position, and if you don't have an offence that can take advantage, your efforts go for naught.
 
Check out the top combined yardage years in CFL history:

  • Clemons has the all-time mark at 3,840 yards set in 1997, a year his Argos went 15-3 and won the Grey Cup behind quarterback Doug Flutie. But in 1990, he had 3,300 and the team was 9-9.
  • Eric Blount of Winnipeg had 3,816 yards in 1998, while his teammates were going 3-15 and finishing last. Waste of effort.
  • Corey Holmes motored for 3,455 in 2005, while the Saskatchewan Roughriders finished 9-9 and went out in the first round.
  • Jason Armstead rolled up 3,353 yards for the Ottawa Renegades in 2005, as they went 7-11.
  • And Owens himself punched through for 3,288 last season as the Argos went 9-9 and lost in the East final. They wouldn't have gone that far without him. 

So gaining a lot of yards doesn't necessarily mean success for the team.
 
But don't try to tell Armstead it isn't important. He's still doing it after eight years.

Hidden yards, hardest yards
 
"These are the hidden yards, part of the hidden things in football that the only time it's really noticed is when there's bad plays," says the Edmonton returner and receiver. "It's the intangible things you have to have."
 
Perhaps it's the attitude of the men who do this job that contributes to the way fans feel about it, because they have so much pride in the passing yards accumulated as part of the total.
 
"I think I'm a receiver, who just so happens is able to return kicks," says Owens. "I put myself as a receiver first, that's my job on this team as well as a returner. I know I can make plays on offence."
 
Armstead says being a combined yards guy takes a special group of talents.
 
"You can't just find anybody to do it," he says. "It's a collection of things - hand and eye coordination, mixed with a little bit of speed, mixed with a little bit of veteran [savvy], and to have those qualities together is rare in football, period."
 
Owens believes to survive in the combined yards game it's important to know when you can make the play and when you have gained all you're going to get and it's time to go down.
 
He's making that up, by the way.
 
Chad Owens won't go down unless someone drops an anvil on him. And even then, only reluctantly.

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