The Duncan Banner
In the years after giving his opponents fits, former Oklahoma Sooner star running back and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens has shifted his focus to giving back.
A regular at charity events – he said he attends at least 30-40 a year – Owens next stop will take place Friday right here in Duncan at the fourth annual Celebrity Pancreatic Cancer Golf Tournament at the Duncan Golf and Tennis Club.
The tournament, which pairs celebrities with local golfers who sign up, will have all its funds go toward helping with travel expenses for physician visits and pay for lodging and meals for those caring for loved ones with cancer in the hospital.
“I can’t say enough about the tournament. It’s really such a special event because of the way it helps others,” Owens said. “For me, to be a part of something that can improve people’s lives, there’s no better feeling. It’s the best thing you can do.”
Since finding out about the tournament at its commencement four years ago, Owens has made sure to show up every year. His competitive spirit lives on through the event – he brings his own group of friends from Norman to give him the best chance to win.
“With these kind of events, it doesn’t hurt to have three good teammates,” Owens said. “I make a good putt every now and then, but I find myself mostly coaching them. They’re all pretty good.”
Those friends won’t be the only ones close to Owens playing at the event. The former first round pick of the Detroit Lions considers fellow Sooner Heisman winners Jason White and Billy Sims, who also compete every year, two of his closest friends.
“I don’t see them as just fellow Heisman winners, I see them as my friends first. I would think they see me the same way,” Owens said. “We’ve become so close over the years, and it’s great that we’re all able to give back to Oklahoma with events like this.”
The Heisman winner’s life has been affected by cancer directly, with many of his loved ones dealing with the illness. He lost his father and brothers to cancer and his mother is a cancer survivor.
“With what I’ve experienced, I know the importance of helping these people by raising funds,” Owens said. “At events like that, I’m just trying to find anything I can do to contribute and make a difference.”
It was during the late 1960’s, the days of Owens running over and around linebackers, when his connection to Duncan took shape. The Gore native made regular trips from the OU campus in Norman to speak to the school’s alumni association in Duncan.
“It’s a great place with great people and some great golf courses,” Owens said. “I always get excited to come to Duncan every year when the event draws closer.”
It’s easy to see why they wanted him to speak at those events. Along with winning the Heisman in 1969, he was named a consensus All-American. Before his professional career ended because of multiple knee injuries, Owens became the Lions’ first running back to run for 1,000 yards in a season and made the Pro Bowl in 1971.