After being on the receiving end of 153 touchdown strikes — third-most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice and Randy Moss — in a 15-year career, Terrell Owens has his sights set on throwing strikes as a professional bowler. Seriously.
Owens, 39, will make his pro bowling debut today in the PBA World Series of Bowling at South Point Bowling Center, where the event will run through Nov. 3.
“It’s not a publicity stunt for me. It’s something I take serious,” said the colorful, controversial character known as T.O. “I’ve never been a stranger to a challenge, and that’s what this is — a challenge for me.”
Owens will bowl from 8 a.m. to noon today and Monday and from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday.
An avid bowler and celebrity team owner in the PBA League — along with Chris Paul, Jerome Bettis, LaMarr Woodley, Billie Jean King, comedian Kevin Hart and actor Jesse Williams — Owens received an exemption from the PBA to compete in the WSOB.
“He’s at a skill level where he wanted to test himself against the best in the world, and he’s going to get his chance,” PBA commissioner Tom Clark said. “Like any other sport, you just can’t pick it up and be on the level of a pro, but he’s the type of athlete that believes he can do anything.
“He believes he can be a pro bowler one day, as long as he keeps working at it.”
Owens — who has been working on his game with pro coach Mark Baker, a former PBA Tour member — earlier this year competed in Reno on Clark’s team in the USBC Open Championships, bowling’s largest amateur event.
He fired a 530 series in singles and 503 in doubles with Clark, finishing with a 1,508 total (167.5 average) in his competitive bowling debut.
“By no means am I a professional, but with the skills I have, I think I can become that,” said Owens, who said his high game is 288 on house lanes and that he rolled 16 straight strikes while practicing for Reno. “If given the opportunity to really put more hours into practice, I think I can really do it.”
T.O., who took up bowling in the late 1990s after attending a charity event with the San Francisco 49ers featuring PBA Tour member Norm Duke, is confident he’ll hold his own in the WSOB’s field of 240 bowlers from more than 20 countries.
“I doubt I’ll come in last. I’m not worried about that, but I definitely want to compete,” he said. “I just have to be under control and not let emotions get the most of me.
“It’s not like football where you can take emotions out on an opponent. With bowling, you have to be under control.”
Rest assured, though, if Owens ever lifts his game to the PBA Tour level, he plans to let loose like Pete Weber, the PBA Hall of Famer and bowling’s resident bad boy.
“Oh my God! Pete Weber is the me of bowling, and I’m the Pete Weber of football,” Owens said. “He’s very entertaining. I love Pete and what he brings to the game.
“I’m hoping I can get competitive enough where I can go back and forth with some of these guys. I can get creative and play with a little chip on my shoulder, too.”
PBA Tour member Chris Barnes got creative at an event attended by Owens this season. After winning the tournament, Barnes took a page from T.O.’s book of touchdown celebrations and pulled out a Sharpie, signing his ball and handing it to Owens.
“It was funny,” T.O. said. “It was classic.”
Owens, who turns 40 in December and is three seasons removed from the NFL — where he last played for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010 — still has not officially retired from the league and doesn’t plan to anytime soon.
“I don’t think I’ll ever officially retire because I feel like I should be playing at this point,” he said. “I might go to 80 years old and still not be officially retired.”
After playing for Allen, Texas, of the Indoor Football League in 2012, Owens signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks before last season but was released in training camp.
He still hopes to hook up with an NFL team this year.
“Like I tell my friends, if it’s God’s will for me to play this year, he’ll provide that opportunity,” he said. “It’s not like I’m begging to play, but I’d love the opportunity to play. I’m competitive. I want to.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.