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Terrell Owens deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Will T.O.’s off-the-field antics prevent his enshrinement?

Wide receiver Terrell Owens, who spent one season playing in Western New York with the Buffalo Bills, is among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and based purely on his playing career, Owens deserves to be enshrined in Canton.

Owens, who played in the NFL from 1996-2010, retired as one of the league’s most accomplished receivers. At the time of his retirement, Owens ranked second in league history in receiving yards (15,934), touchdowns (153), and receptions (1,078), and was number one in popcorn sales.

Following the conclusion of the 2017 season, Owens still ranks second all-time in receiving yards, is third in touchdowns, and eighth in receptions.

During an era when wide receivers were divas, Owens was the biggest diva of them all, but he was also one of the league’s most dynamic receiving threats of his era.

Drafted in the third round of the 1996 draft by the San Francisco 49ers out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Owens posted nine 1,000-yard seasons, and had eight seasons with 70-plus catches during an extremely productive career with the 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Three times, Owens led the league in receiving touchdowns in a season (16 with the 49ers in 2001, 13 with the 49ers in 2002, and 13 with the Cowboys in 2006). Owens was named to six Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro five times.

Between 2000 and 2008, Owens averaged 1,202 receiving yards, 81 catches, and 12.1 touchdowns per season. Those are definitely Hall of Fame-worthy numbers.

In perhaps one of the greatest Super Bowl performances of all time, Owens, playing on a broken leg, hauled in nine catches for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

In 12 career playoff games, Owens recorded 54 catches for 751 yards and five touchdowns, including a 177-yard, two-touchdown effort during a wild 39-38 win by the 49ers over the New York Giants in a Wild Card game.

During a 17-0 win over the Chicago Bears on Dec. 17, 2000, Owens set a new NFL record with 20 catches. Brandon Marshall has since broken Owens’ single-game record when he caught 21 passes during a loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 13, 2009.

But Owens, in his third year of eligibility, is not a lock to be inducted as a member of the Class of 2018.

The problems with T.O. come down to his role in the locker room, a point that will be brought up early and often by the committee members deciding the fates of the Class of 2018.

Despite possessing other-worldly receiving talents, T.O. created conflict with teammates and coaches, from his bashing of quarterback Jeff Garcia in San Francisco to his clash with Donovan McNabb and other Eagles’ players in the locker room during his time in Philadelphia.

Owens also squabbled with Eagles’ management over his contract and was suspended for much of the 2005 season. He was subsequently released by the Eagles in 2006 and found the perfect landing spot for someone craving the spotlight: the Dallas Cowboys, and their limelight-loving owner, Jerry Jones.

Owens produced during his three seasons in Dallas, posting three straight 1,000-yard seasons with an All-Pro nod in 2007 after catching 81 passes for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns. But again, he called out two of the team’s stars, quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten, and questioned the play-calling of then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

After wearing out his welcome in Dallas, Owens struggled to find a long-term deal and came to Orchard Park on a one-year contract in 2009. Owens hauled in 55 passes for 829 yards with five touchdowns during his one season with the Bills, including a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Jacksonville on Nov. 22.

The 2018 class will be announced Saturday, the day before Super Bowl LII, with anywhere between four to eight new inductees into the Hall of Fame.

Owens’ play on the field is worthy of the Hall of Fame. Yes, he created conflict and drama, but he also backed it up with some of the finest receiving stats the game has ever seen.

The other finalists are: Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens), Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears), Edgerrin James (Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks), Randy Moss(Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, 49ers), Isaac Bruce (St. Louis Rams, 49ers), John Lynch (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos), Brian Dawkins (Eagles and Broncos), Ty Law (Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Broncos), Everson Walls (Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns), Tony Boselli (Jacksonville Jaguars), Joe Jacoby (Washington Redskins), Steve Hutchinson (Seahawks, Vikings, Titans), Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh Steelers, Jets, Arizona Cardinals), and Kevin Mawae (Seahawks, Jets, Titans).