NEW ORLEANS — Tinker Owens and New Orleans Saints teammate Archie Manning regularly stay in touch via text messaging.
“Archie and I text a lot, but we normally don't talk on the phone much,” the Miami Athletic Hall of Famer said. “Quite honestly, when I saw it was him calling, I thought it couldn't be good news; its bad news because either one of our teammates passed away or something.
“We visited for a minute and he said ‘I just wanted to call and inform you that you are going into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame.’”
Owens was part of the second class of inductees that included Warrick Dunn of Florida State, Bill Montgomery of Arkansas, Del Shofner of Baylor, Steve Slaton of West Virginia, Charley Tripp of Georgia and Johnny Vaught of Ole Miss.
They were inducted Dec. 8 in a ceremony that leads up to the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl clash that pits Georgia and Baylor.
The College Football Playoff national championship game also will be played in New Orleans on Jan. 13.
“To be honest, I was really shocked,” Owens said. “I didn't know they had a hall of fame until Archie called to inform me.”
Members of the Class of 2019 were Jerome Bettis of Notre Dame, Todd Blackledge of Penn State, Vince Dooley of Georgia, Bobby Grier of Pittsburgh, Bobby Layne of Texas, Abe Mickal of LSU, Darrell Royals who played at OU then coached Texas, Deion Sanders of Florida State, Steve Spurrier of Florida and Scott Woerner of Georgia.
Manning, who played at Ole Miss, was joined by Sammy Baugh of TCU, Raymond Brown of Ole Miss, Frank Broyles of Georgia Tech and Arkansas, Bear Bryant of Kentucky and Alabama, Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh, Bo Jackson of Auburn, Johnny Majors of Tennessee and Pitt, Dan Marina of Pitt, Davey O’Brien of TCU, Major Ogilvie of Alabama, Pepper Rodgers of Georgia Tech, Claude “Monk” Simons of Tulane, Gene Stallings of Alabama and Herschel Walker of Georgia were in the inaugural class.
Owens and Matt Monger were members of the second class of the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame that was inducted in March.
He was the first freshman to win the Miller-Digby Award as the most outstanding player in the 1972 Sugar Bowl.
Making just his third career start, Owens snagged five of the Sooners’ six total completions for 132 yards and a touchdown in a 14-0 win over Penn State.
He also caught a pass to set up the game’s other TD.
Making just his third career start, Owens caught five of the Sooners’ six completions in the game for 132 yards, including one reception going for a touchdown and another setting up a score as he became the first freshman to win the Miller-Digby Award as the Most Outstanding Player in the Sugar Bowl. Due to his 5-11, 168-lb. size, many opponents underestimated the two-time All-American’s ability and he made them pay, catching 62 passes during his career for 1,424 yards, placing him fourth on the all-time reception yardage list.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft and was credited with six seasons with the Saints.
“I was blessed to go to a team that didn’t have a lot of receivers at the time who were big time receivers. That gave me an opportunity to make the team,” Owens said.
The Dallas Cowboys had expressed an interest in selecting Owens.
“The last place I wanted to go was Dallas because they had so many great receivers. If I had gone to Dallas, chances were that I wouldn’t have been on the team. They had Tony Hill and Golden Richards at the time, so they had three or four really established receivers.
“Fortunately I went to where I had an opportunity to make the team. I was blessed to make it six years in the league.”
Owens likes the spread offense, which gives receivers a chance to shine.
He had only 62 receptions and 1,424 yards with 10 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Sooners, earning All-American honors twice.
By comparison, CeeDee Lamb has 58 catches, 1,208 yards and 14 TDs this season.
“It would have been fun, but I tell people I wouldn't trade two national championships, four Big Eight championships and going 43-2-1 over four years for a lot more catches,” Owens said. “It would have been nice to have thrown the ball a little bit more (during his playing days.”