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Tallahassee Democrat

Ex-NFL player with Tallahassee roots speaks Friday

By Gerald Ensley • DEMOCRAT SENIOR WRITER • April 10, 2008

Burgess Owens believes he was lucky to grow up black in racially segregated Tallahassee as the nation was undergoing great social change. He had the examples of a strong black community and the opportunities of change.

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His experiences were a springboard to football stardom and business success. Friday, he'll share those experiences in a talk at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 312 Stadium Drive.

The talk is at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

"Only in America could we have all these changes and growth. We have opportunities for anyone who can open their eyes and see them," Owens said. "I'm glad I grew up when I did. It gave me the perspective to be optimistic."

Owens, 56, graduated from Rickards High in 1969. He was an All-American defensive back at the University of Miami and played 10 years in the NFL, helping the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XV. Owens became a successful entrepreneur and executive in computer and financial fields, as well as an in-demand motivational speaker.

Son of a retired Florida A&M agronomy professor, Owens lives in Philadelphia. He and his wife, Josie, have six children. He returns to Tallahassee often to see family, including a daughter who recently moved here with her husband.

Owens and his wife were introduced to the Mormon church by his Raiders teammate Todd Christensen. They joined the church in 1983, beginning "a very good journey, one in which we have gained more and more faith."

Curtis Austin, president of what the church calls the Tallahassee stake, invited Owens to speak because of his faith, character and success. The church has an active outreach program with local college students.

"I wanted to show (students) what happens to a life when you live it by the Gospels," Austin said. "(Owens) will talk about his take on life and some of his football. But he'll be driving it down to the moral purpose and the way we should live our lives to their full potential."

  • Call senior writer Gerald Ensley at (850) 599-2310 or e-mail gensley@tallahassee.com.

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