Vernon Davis hauled in the 14-yard pass deftly tucked between defenders over the middle, held on through contact and converted the game-winning touchdown to propel the 49ers to the next round of the playoffs.
It immediately triggered memory recall of Terrell Owens' catch in the 1998 wild-card game that gave San Francisco a win over the Packers, and that was before Davis returned to the sidelines with a face masked in tears, just as T.O. did 13 years earlier.
"The Catch 2," as it has been dubbed, was one of the highest moments of Owens' career, but his mercurial NFL tenure has endured plenty of low points as well. Indeed, two orthogonal forces have been at work throughout Owens' 15-year career: His intense work ethic, and his slightly misconstrued world perspective.
A result of his Type-A personality, the media spotlight has never been too far from No. 81, and most recently it shined on his announcement to return to professional football...albeit indoor football.
Owens, 38, will join the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. The new gig will earn him somewhere between 250K and 500K.
Payday couldn't come at a more important time for Owens, who -- despite career earnings of over 80 million -- told GQ magazine for their February issue that he is broke. "I hate myself for letting this happen," he says. "I believed that my advisors had my back when they said, 'You take care of the football, and we'll do the rest.' And in the end, they just basically stole from me."
Owens claims his difficult fiscal position is the result of trusting people too much. GQ reports that his financial advisers "put him in a series of risky, highly leveraged ventures. He invested heavily in real estate and lost millions in the crash. His so-called friend siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. There were the sunk costs tied to the Alabama entertainment complex -- illegal in the state -- that plagued him and others sold on the get-rich-quick scheme (Clinton Portis and Floyd Mayweather among). The final financial thorn in Owens' side more closely resembles a four-pronged Figian brain fork -- each tine representing one of his baby's mothers; Owens pays a total of 178,400 every month in child support."
When people ask where he is, GQ says Owens texts back, "IM IN HELL."
That would all change with one little phone call from agent Drew Rosenhaus. True to his form, Owens has maintained his physique, and he still believes he has a few productive football seasons left.
Toward the end of last year, Owens held a private workout seeking an NFL suitor. None came. "With T.O.," an NFL executive told GQ, "no matter how brilliant he can be on the field, the dark side is always lurking. You don't know which T.O. you're going to get, and no one is comfortable risking that."
Well, the IFL Wranglers are comfortable taking that risk, and you can be sure Owens knows this will be one of his final chances to prove he can still get it done to earn a professional-football-caliber paycheck.
I was a fan before I was a journalist, and my moment with T.O. came at Game 5 of the 2002 World Series. We stood side by side in the Pac Bell tunnel looking out onto Field. He took the time to take a photo and autograph my foam finger, then as we brought it in for the real deal, he said, "Let's do this," nodding to the field.
We did it, for that game at least, as Jeff Kent hit two blasts, Jason Schmidt struck out eight Angels and the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the series. It was a simple interaction, but it was all he needed to do to earn himself a fan for life.
Owens, who is a large reason the Yards after Catch statistic came into existence, should be a no-doubt, first-ballot hall of famer. In NFL history, he is bested only by Jerry Rice in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. But there is no denying his career had its fair share of pitfalls.