Chris Owusu was a virtual unknown to Bucs fans before his arrival at training camp ten days ago. But his recent performances, including Saturday’s, where he made a number of difficult catches, including a 57-yard touchdown, have them all asking, “Where did he come from?”
NFL front offices know him. They’ve seen the tape. He was Andrew Luck’s top target at Stanford in 2010, the same year he tied a single season Pac-10 record with three kickoff returns for a touchdown. He also posted a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which tied for tops among receivers.
But those measurables and those dazzling special teams highlights weren’t enough to convince a single NFL team to draft him in 2012 because of a single label: ‘concussion prone.’
It’s a label that carries even more weight now that the number of players filing suit against the league for head injuries has grown exponentially. Teams are fearful any time a player suffers multiple concussions and is slow to recover.
Owusu suffered three over the course of 13 months in college, with two of them coming in the span of three weeks. He missed the final four games of his senior year at Stanford, but was medically cleared to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
Since then, he’s had to climb an uphill battle, even if he’s quick to downplay his efforts.
“I try not to think about it. I try not to go out there and look into the past. I try to live in the now and into the future. I think that’s the best way to play. Because if you go out there and think about the past too much, it’s going to affect you now and it’s going to affect your future, so [I’m] just trying to live in the moment.”
That means duplicating his efforts in practice with a solid performance in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Ravens. There he can show that reliable set of hands, especially if Mike Williams and Tiquan Underwood are limited by hamstring injuries.
“I think with or without the concussions, every play you have to go out there and do your best. I think that’s really important to go out there and know the playbook, and make sure you’re in the right spots so that the quarterbacks can trust you.”
It also means showing he can take a hit, and take them repeatedly over the course of a season, something that cannot be simulated in a single game or practice.