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LaDarius Owens' Auburn story is of faith, determination
Dec. 31, 2014

LaDarius Owens and teammate Gabe Wright deliver the hit

By Charles Goldberg

TAMPA, Fla.  LaDarius Owens arrived at Auburn as a legacy, the nephew of Auburn's first black football player who became a minister. 

The football and that faith would also serve LaDarius Owens well.

Owens has been slowed by two surgeries in this, his final season, but has played on, to start, to provide depth and leadership and to show young players to fight on. He'll suit up one more time as an Auburn player in Thursday's Outback Bowl against Wisconsin, and then hopes to impress scouts in the NFLPA Bowl in California in January.

He says he's as healthy as he's been all season and wants to make an impact.

Owens' Auburn career has mirrored that of the Tigers' seasons the last five years. The defensive lineman arrived in 2010 and was redshirted during Auburn's national championship season. He was with the Tigers when they slipped, when they played for another national title last season as a starter, when they followed the track that has led them to the Outback Bowl.

"It's been a long, crazy ride from the top to the bottom back to the top. It's been a great experience," Owens said.

Owens, like his uncle James Owens, easily expresses affection for Auburn.

"Auburn made me the man I am today. It made me appreciate hard work to be able to handle something like this season and not be discouraged and to continue and fight hard," Owens said. "I don't think there's anything that will come my way that will defeat me."

Owens followed in the footsteps of his uncle, who played at Auburn from 1969-72. Auburn thinks so highly of the Owens legacy the school created the James Owens Courage Award in 2012.

LaDarius Owens graduated in May with his uncle watching. 

"It started back in 1969, and it has taken a long time, but we are still a family of Auburn; and we're grateful that the Good Lord has allowed us to be a part of it," James Owens said that day.

Despite the injuries, LaDarius Owens says he's lived his dream.

"It means a lot to grow up an Auburn fan and the dream to play at Auburn, not really knowing how it would play out," he said. "But it's been great to come here and represent my family and my uncle. Despite everything I've been through, I've continued to fight and have coverage and fight through adversity. I'm proud of myself and the things I've accomplished."

He wanted to do more, of course. His final season was one of plays, and of frustration.

"I fought through injuries, and that hurts because I was coming off my junior year in which I got to play a lot," he said. "Coming into the year I had a lot of hopes and expectations, and then I had to undergo surgeries. I fought back from one surgery and then had to undergo another surgery. It was pretty devastating to me, but I've continued to fight through and have faith.

"I wasn't 100 percent during the season, but instead of missing games, I just fought through with what I had and to help my team the best I could and be there for the young guys.

"I was just being humble about it and continue to have faith and trust in the process. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to have my dreams."

He was selected to play in the NFLPA all-star game, giving him a chance to impress pro scouts.

"I want to make a statement. I'm healthier now than I was all season. Out in California, I'm hoping to make some noise and get a few eyes on me and make a name for myself in the next few months."

James and LaDarius Owens on Graduation Day in May

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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