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June 22, 2018

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Renegade spirit: NFL great Terrell Owens talks about the Hall of Fame and his Las Vegas show

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Bill Hughes/Las Vegas News Bureau

Six-time Pro Bowler Terrell Owens is shown taking a selfie with, from left, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim McMahon, host Martin Montana, and Two-time World Series champion Jose Canseco during a red carpet event at Alto Bar for the opening of Renegades, a new interactive show featuring sports celebrities at Cleopatra’s Barge in Caesars Palace at 3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd. in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. The show is slated to give fans a chance to hear stories and ask questions from sports stars.

Terrell Owens is coming off his most eventful month since his playing career ended eight years ago. The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the induction of the NFL’s second all-time leading receiver (he ranks behind only Jerry Rice in yardage), after snubbing Owens in his first two years of eligibility. And that was only the start. Owens cheered one of his former teams, the Philadelphia Eagles, to a Super Bowl victory before arriving in Las Vegas to anchor the new Renegades show at Caesars Palace. Owens appears alongside baseball great Jose Canseco and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon for an interactive performance four nights a week through the end of April. We chatted with Owens about it all before one of his recent shows.

Did you ever envision yourself as a Strip headliner?

Not at all. Even in my early days of coming to Las Vegas and going to the Palms—I’m good friends with the Maloofs—I’d be in car services riding to the hotel and see the people headlining on top of cabs, billboards. I never envisioned being one of those people, but here I am years later, seeing my picture ride on the top of cabs.

IF YOU GO

• What: "Renegades"

• When: Resumes March 15, Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m.

• Cost: $53-$103

• Where: Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace

• Phone: 702-777-2782

You’re spending a lot of time in town because of the show. What do you like to do here when you’re not performing?

I’m here pretty much solo, and for me personally, I’m low-key, chill. Most of the time, I’m in my room watching TV. From time to time, I’ll go downstairs and play a little blackjack, but that’s about it.

Are there any subjects you would rather not talk about in the show?

Not at all. We know what’s at stake; we understand what it means when you tell people, “Nothing is off limits.” I haven’t been asked any hard questions. I think people know me, and if they don’t know me, they get a chance to know who I am outside of the media portrayal of me. That’s one of the good things about me wanting to do the show—a lot of people have had a lot of questions about who I am over the years, especially with the Hall of Fame stuff and not getting in for a few years because of “character issues.”

Did the wait to get your Hall of Fame nod sour your excitement over the accomplishment?

I don’t sugarcoat too much, and yeah, I’m pretty soured by what transpired the past few years. They’ve taken a lot of the enjoyment out of it by not following through on how guys are nominated. In that regard, I’m not overjoyed about it, but at the end of the day, I’m honored to be one of about 300 guys to ever be in the Hall of Fame.

You also haven’t sugarcoated your excitement over the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Why do you still feel such an attachment to Philadelphia?

It was pretty much a rematch of what happened 14 years ago, so for them to get back on that stage against Tom Brady, it was just a great feeling, understanding that city is so passionate. We weren’t able to complete the mission of going to Super Bowl 39 and winning, so I couldn’t be happier for the players, coaches and management. But honestly, it’s the city. That’s a city that welcomed me with open arms. I wanted to go somewhere where I could really flourish as a receiver, and Philadelphia really enabled me to do that. That’s why I gave it all that I had, to the point of risking my career playing in the Super Bowl with two screws, a plate and a broken fibula.

Do you look back on your time with the Eagles as the highlight of your career?

That and the Dallas Cowboys. But really, Andy Reid was a coach who recognized who I was as a talent. He realized what I could bring to the table, and that’s where I felt I made the most of my abilities. I felt I was underutilized in San Francisco. The coaches there, it felt like they didn’t use me as one of the best players on the football field. When I went to Philadelphia, there wasn’t an ego that I’m sure they expected going there. I played well with the quarterback, with the guys that were around me and tried to elevate everyone’s games based on what I could do with or without the football.

What’s one crazy Philadelphia sports moment that has stuck with you?

Just scoring a touchdown in that stadium, and the fans chanting my name to the T.O. song (to the tune of “Ole, Ole, Ole”). I remember that like it was yesterday. And my teammates, how we really rolled for each other. It’s unfortunate it didn’t last. I don’t know if it was envy, jealousy, but it rubbed some people the wrong way the way the city embraced me, and it caused some tension. I’ve always been forthcoming in saying it wasn’t me that caused the rift. I wish we could have gone on to do some greater things, and when I look back on my career, if I maybe communicated a little better, it could have changed some things. If you think about what we were doing, it was like magic and something I always envisioned as I emerged and became a star in my own right, learning from the great Jerry Rice. Everyone got to see what type of player I was coming from San Francisco to Philadelphia.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.