STILLWATER — During bowl practice last season, Rashod Owens said he got some reps at running back just incase the injury-riddled Cowboys needed him.
An inconsistent position has been a consistent theme of Owens’ time in Stillwater with his most recent move seeing him play the Z receiver spot in Oklahoma State’s 29-21 win against Kansas State on Friday night. Owens’ move was forced by a wrist injury sidelining De’Zhaun Stribling for the rest of the season.
Owens finished Friday’s win with a career-high five receptions and 75 receiving yards — not bad for a player who played Cowboy back (a position that doesn’t even exist any more) last season.
“It’s not that challenging,” Owens said. “One thing that Coach (Kasey) Dunn loves is players that can play anywhere on the field. That helps him, especially, to be able to move guys around like me, and we had more guys like [Cale Cabbiness]. He had an injury, but he’ll be back soon. Coaches love that, to see players that can be able to move around and be versatile.”
Had Owens needed to play running back against Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl last year, it wouldn’t have been his first time at the position. He played some running back at Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, where as a senior he led the Rough Riders to a 9-2 record while running for 1,454 yards and 23 touchdowns.
And Owens’ versatility went beyond the lines of the football field. He played basketball in high school, and he was a celebrated triple jumper. Owens’ tally of 49 feet, 10.75 inches as a high school junior was the best among Texans that year and ranked 11th nationally.
Owens signed with the Cowboys as the No. 1,450 player in the 2020 recruiting class over offers from Kansas, UTSA, Colorado State and others.
Since he got on campus ahead of the 2020 season, Owens has played fairly regularly with his flexibility among the various receiving positions likely helping him get on the field.
He played four games in 2020 before redshirting. In OSU’s Fiesta Bowl-winning 2021 season, Owens played in 10 games and made five starts. In 2022, he played in 12 games and made three starts. Thus far in 2023, he has played in all five of OSU’s games, but Friday’s win was his first start of the year.
And in all that time, Owens has played in the slot, outside, at Cowboy back and even practiced at running back.
He finished 2022 with 85 receiving yards, which ranked eighth among Cowboys. Three players (Bryson Green, John Paul Richardson and Stephon Johnson Jr.) who finished with more receiving yards than Owens transferred out after the season, so what made Owens stay despite having just six catches?
“Just because of the relationships I’ve built with not just the teammates and coaches and everything, just the foundation with this school,” Owens said. “I love the energy and I love the history behind this school, so that’s the reason why I stayed here. I just didn’t want to start a whole new journey over again, so I might as well just stick it out and finish it.”
It has felt like Owens is often the forgotten man of the OSU receiver room to the fan base and media. From being a recruit outside the top 1,000 of his recruiting class to playing a now defunct position, Owens might not be as exciting to talk about as a top 150 prospect like Talyn Shettron or shiny new transfers like the 6-foot-5 Leon Johnson or the 6-3 Stribling. But his ability to adapt and fit in where the Cowboys need him to is undeniable, and it sure doesn’t sound like what Owens brings is undervalued to those inside the locker room.
“One of the most impressive things about him is that he is super smart, and he’s super adaptable,” Brennan Presley said. “I think that’s the thing that goes really underrated in terms of football is that I don’t think people understand how much thinking it takes to really get out there and run this play versus a certain looks, and do this and that, and go from X to Z to tight end to inside receiver and all this stuff.
“I think the best thing about him is how he is able to adapt and how smart he is at the game of football.”
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