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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Opponents can’t ground Flyin’ Hawaiian

During a season in which the only consistency the Argonauts have shown is constantly failing to get into the end zone and continuously finding new and creative ways to lose, there is Chad Owens.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian has been the model of consistency.
Despite playing on a 3-10 team, the kick returner/receiver has 2,431 combined yards and is on pace to become the first player in professional football to amass more than 3,000 in back-to-back seasons.
When Owens passed the 3,000-yard mark last year, he joined former Argos Pinball Clemons and Rocket Ismail as the only players to cross that barrier.
But despite being ranked with such CFL greats and being on the verge of sports history, Owens says the record means little because of the team’s record.
“It may be something for my sons to talk about later on, but I’m not a real big individual stats guy — and we’re 3-10,” he said Wednesday as the Argos returned to the field to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day game against the first-place Montreal Alouettes. “I’d give all the yards up to flip that record.”
The 29-year-old, who parlayed last season’s performance into a healthy pay raise, says the accomplishments ring hollow in light of the team’s failings.
“Last year, special teams player of the year but no chance at a Grey Cup,” he said. “This year, there’s a chance to be a back-to-back 3,000-all-purpose-yards guy, but no playoffs. That’s the way it’s looking.
“It’s tough. It’s bittersweet.”
In less than two years, the 5-foot-7 speedster has established himself as the best in the CFL. His teammates say he’s the best they’ve seen.
“He’s the best I’ve played with,” said running back Jeff Johnson, who has also blocked for the likes of Bashir Levingston and Dominique Dorsey. “Dorsey was tough, but Chad is the most fearless. He hits the hole harder than anyone I’ve seen.
“As a return team, we know we can change the momentum of the game every time the other guys kick. Even if there’s no lane, he creates one.”
The only downgrade on Owens’ game this year has been in touchdowns. He returned four kicks for majors last year and only one this season.
But, as Owens points out, return touchdowns are down across the league, mainly because opponents are kicking out of bounds to avoid big returns. Last week against Hamilton, the Ticats punted out of bounds all night — giving the Argos 30 yards in illegal punt penalties.
“Coverage teams have done a better job kicking away and that’s just the fact of the matter,” he said.

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