Four years ago, some of Hall of Fame voters were hellbent on keeping Terrell Owens out of the Hall of Fame. Three years ago, Owens got in.
This week, Owens learned for the first time that Terez Paylor, a Hall of Fame voter who unexpectedly died this week at 37, spoke passionately in support of Owens’ enshrinement.
“I get glassy-eyed just thinking about it,” Owens told Bob Glauber of Newsday. “My condolences to his family. It’s so sad. I didn’t hear anything about Terez and his perspective and how they were deliberating on me. It’s so unfortunate that I’m learning of this after this man’s passing. Honestly, I wish I could have spoken to him to say thank you for what he did.
“What he did is what I did,” Owens added. “You’re being courageous. You’re standing up, sometimes against giants. For him to be that young in a room of elders and people that have been on that committee for some time, that speaks volumes.”
Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, who presented Owens’ case for Canton, explained the impact of Paylor’s words at the selection meeting.
“To hear a young Black man talk about what drew him to the sport that he loved and what made an impression on him as a young man growing up was a perspective that I had personally never considered when it comes to that [Hall of Fame meeting] room,” Maiocco told Glauber. “There’s the old saying that you know what a Hall of Famer is when you see him. Terez basically said that, growing up, that’s what a Hall of Famer in his community, among his friends and the people who shared the same experiences, looked like. Boom, that right there, that’s a Hall of Famer. I think that opened people’s eyes to a new perspective and a way of defining what a Hall of Famer is.”
The fact that so many of the voters needed that kind of a kick in the ass to recognize the obvious shows how flawed the process is. A cabal of crusty old reporters, several of whom have remained voters in recent years even without active employment covering the league or any of its teams, can shoot down anyone they want, for any reason.
Was Owens disruptive at times to his teams? Sure. He still should have gotten in on the first try. Was he surly with reporters at times? Sure. He still should have gotten in on the first try. Did he pursue his desire to get a new contract or a trade out of Philadelphia in a way that created major problems for the organization? Sure. He still should have gotten in on the first try.
Owens simply wanted more financial protections in his contract after grossly outperforming its terms in 2004, a season capped by playing in the Super Bowl with a still-broken bone in his leg. The Eagles, who if signing team-favorable contracts and managing the cap and telling players “tough crap” when they became unhappy with their contracts resulted in Lombardi Trophies would have plenty more than one, held firm.
If those same facts played out today, fans and media (hopefully) would view the situation differently. At the time, Owens became the villain, and some voters seized on that incident — and embellished it — to justify passing over twice a guy who should have gotten in on the first ballot.
To Paylor’s credit, he made the case that persuaded the voters to do the right thing. Here’s hoping that the Hall of Fame will use this occasion to take a step back, scrutinize carefully the list of voters, and make hard decisions regarding whether each and every member of the panel deserves to still hold a spot on it.