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Dorsey’s Delvon Hardaway (left) gets his chance to work against NFL cornerback Christopher Owens, who graduated from Dorsey in 2004. Photo by Jason Lewis
Christopher Owens interacts with the athletes at the camp. Not too long ago he was in their same position, so he wants to help them get to his position, which is playing professional football. Photo by Jason Lewis
Owens returned to Dorsey with fellow NFL players to help young student athletes get to the next level.
When Christopher Owens graduated from Dorsey High School in 2004, he promised head football coach Paul Knox that he would come back to support the program and his community as well.
“Christopher was one of our guys who said that from day one, if he had the opportunity he was going to give something back to this program,” Knox said. “He’s been outstanding and he’s kept his promise for the last three years. He’s done these types of things as well as some monetary support to the program. I can’t say anything but that it’s been a positive for him to come back.”
This past Saturday Owens returned to host the 3rd Annual Christopher Owens Football Camp for high school athletes. In the past this camp has been for Dorsey players, but this year players from Compton High School and Serra High School attended, and NFL players Jarron Gilbert (Buffalo Bills), Carl Ihenacho (Oakland Raiders), Mohammad Marah (San Diego Chargers), and Stefan Johnson (Washington Redskins) were on hand to help Owens instruct the high school players.
Owens earned a scholarship to San Jose St., where he juggled being a cornerback on the football team as well as being a student in the classroom. He even found time to join Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2009 draft, and he has played in their secondary since then.
Community service is something that has been a part of Owens’ life for a number of years, and he has taken it to a higher level since turning pro. He was named the Atlanta Falcons Man of the Year for his community service efforts in 2010, and he was nominated for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of he Year award, which recognizes an NFL player who preformed outstanding work in his community. He was the Sentinel’s Sports Section Sportsman of the Year for 2010.
For the past three summers Owens has returned to Dorsey to host The Christopher Owens Football Camp, which is not only designed to enhance the high school player’s abilities on the field, but also in the classroom.
“This year was one of the best years for the educational part,” Owens said. “We had Leybroan James, the mathematician who is going to Harvard, not only talk about math and school, but he also touched on life skills. He talked about how to become a winner, how to become successful. The steps you take to become successful. The campers were really engaged this year.”
In James’ MASTER Student Program (Making Algebra Social Transformative Engaging and Relevant) Success Book, he explained a number of simple principles to the student athletes, such as sitting in the front of the class, and sitting next to the ‘A’ students instead of your friends. To stay in contact with the ‘A’ students and even study with them. To review class notes the day that the material was given instead of waiting until the night before the exam.
Parents who attended the camp were able to receive information getting their child to graduate from high school and also having their child ready for college.
Owens made this camp much more than just football because he understands that most of the work to get to college and potentially the NFL is done off of the field.
“Football is not just on the field,” Owens said. “That’s all people see when they watch football on TV. But that’s not the whole game. The game is done that week, in the film room, in the meeting room, with playbooks the size of textbooks. I want these guys to know that the NFL, where many of them aspire to go to, is more mental than physical. And on top of that, when you go to college, which is the next step before the NFL, you have to be a student athlete first.”
After the classroom the players hit the field, where they showed that they are extremely talented at this sport.
“I saw some studs,” Owens said. “The 1-on-1 portion was really good. A lot of them were really fast, and they listen. That’s really important because you cannot have athletic ability without being focused.”
Community service has become second nature to Owens, so waking up early on a Saturday morning during the NFL’s off-season is no issue to him.
“It’s needed,” Owens said. “Of course I want to do it, I want to give back. There are many ways to give back, but something like this, in my community, in the inner city, it’s needed. When I see a need, I have to handle it, especially when you’re blessed to be in the position that I’m in.”
Owens credits key people in his life for building him into the person he is today.
“That just shows my upbringing,” Owens said. “I give all the credit to my mom, my sister, my brothers, my church family. The importance is to give back, and it was instilled in me at a young age.”
Owens is the youngest of six, and all of his siblings graduated from Dorsey and went on to graduate from college.