BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The third time was a charm for flamboyant wide receiver Terrell Owens.
Owens, a polarizing figure who spent his first eight NFL seasons with the 49ers, was voted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Owens ranks second in the NFL in all-time receiving yards behind former teammate Jerry Rice. He made it into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility.
“Terrell Owens gave our organization eight great seasons of service and some terrific memories that will live on in 49ers lore. He is one of the most accomplished wide receivers in the history of the NFL, and very deserving of this selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 49ers organization would like to congratulate him for this great honor,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement issued by the 49ers.
The Hall of Fame class of 2018 will also include wide receiver Randy Moss, linebackers Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) and Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears), and safety Brian Dawkins (Philadelphia Eagles/Denver Broncos). Linebacker Robert Brazile (Houston Oilers) and guard Jerry Kramer (Green Bay) were elected as seniors candidates. Long-time NFL executive Bobby Beathard was elected as a contributor.
Moss, whose best seasons came with the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, played two seasons with the Raiders (2005-’06) and finished his career with the 49ers in 2012. His final game was Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers' 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in February 2013.
Beathard, considered one of the game’s top talent evaluators during his career as general manager in Washington and San Diego, is the grandfather of 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard.
The voting took place among 47 members of the board of selectors on the eve of Super Bowl 52. The newest class will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 4, in Canton, Ohio.
John Lynch, the 49ers’ general manager, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety during his 15-year career with Tampa Bay and Denver, did not make the cut from the 15 finalists to the final 10. Lynch was in his fifth year as a finalist.
In his first two years of eligibility, Owens was eliminated on the cut from 15 to the final 10. A maximum of five modern-era finalists are inducted into the Hall of Fame annually.
Owens was likely not elected to the Hall of Fame in his first two years of eligibility due to role in controversies in the locker rooms of the teams for which he played.
During his 15-year NFL career, Owens feuded with quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. But each of those quarterbacks compiled their best single-season win-loss records and set single-season highs in touchdown passes with Owens as the No. 1 receiver.
Hall-of-Fame quarterback Steve Young played just 45 games with Owens. But when Young threw for a career-high 36 touchdown passes in 1998, Owens caught 14 of them.
Owens was named to six Pro Bowls during his career, was a five-time first-team All-Pro and was a second-team All-Decade selection for the 2000s. Owens ranks second in league history with 15,934 receiving yards; third with 153 receiving touchdowns (behind Rice and Moss); fifth in overall touchdowns; and eighth with 1,078 career receptions.
After eight productive seasons with the 49ers, the club traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 when a clerical error prevented him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. It was an acrimonious departure from the 49ers, and something that apparently still remains on Owens’ mind.
This week, a video was posted on TMZ on which Owens was asked what team he would represent if he were chosen for the Hall of Fame. Owens answered, “Well, it won’t be the 49ers.”
However, Owens has no choice to make.
According to the Hall of Fame’s official website: “An enshrinee . . . is not asked to ‘declare,’ nor does the Hall of Fame ‘choose’ a team under which a new member is enshrined. When elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an individual is recognized for accomplishments as a player, coach, or contributor.”
Owens thrived during his first season in Philadelphia. He returned to play in the Super Bowl, just seven weeks after sustaining a torn ligament and a fractured lower leg. He caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The following season, Owens’ relationships with McNabb and team management soured. The Eagles eventually suspended him after he appeared in just seven games in 2007 while declining to renegotiate his contract.
He appeared in 47 games the next three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before getting released following the 2008 season after he became critical of Romo’s reliance on tight end Jason Witten and then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s play-calling.
Owens also became a subject of controversy throughout his career with his celebratory antics.
While with the 49ers, he twice ran to the star at the middle of Texas Stadium after touchdown receptions from Garcia in a 49ers game in 2000 against the Dallas Cowboys.
After his second trip to the middle of the playing field in that game, Cowboys safety George Teague leveled Owens and a melee ensued. The 49ers suspended Owens for one game, citing conduct detrimental to the team.
Owens also pulled a Sharpie from his sock to autograph a football he caught for a touchdown against Seattle and grabbed pom-poms from a cheerleader to celebrate another touchdown.
Now, more than seven years after his playing career ended with one-year stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati, Owens has reason to celebrate once again.