WVU Sports Hall of Fame
Written by Greg Walker
A fleet tailback from 1972-75, Artie Owens barrelled his way to a school record 2,648 career rushing yards. He is WVU's career all-purpose yardage leader with 3,971. His 6.4 yards-per-carry average is one of the best in school history and he had a school record 13 career 100-yard rushing games.
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Owens' best rushing season came in 1974 when he gained 1,130 yards. He compiled a string of four consecutive games with 100 or more rushing yards that season: Kentucky (100), Tulane (181), Indiana (120) and Pitt (112). Owens also gained 1,055 yards on 159 carries in 1975, making him the only Mountaineer with two career 1,000-yard rushing seasons. It was during the 1975 season that Owens was named Sports Illustrated back of the week for his 171-yard game against Southern Methodist.
He was one of the most exciting and dangerous kick returners in the country, bringing one kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown versus Penn State in 1973 (third-longest in school history) and another 75 yards against Stanford in 1972, when he was the only freshman to earn a varsity letter.
Owens led WVU to the 1972 and 1975 Peach Bowls and a 27-19 four-year record. Owens captained the 1975 team and was named the Ira E. Rodgers Award winner.
Owens' track career was also legendary. As a freshman, he tied a 41-year-old WVU record for the 100-yard dash by clocking a 9.6. He later bettered that mark with a 9.5, a record he shares with fellow two-sport star Harry Blake. Owens and Blake also teamed to set Mountaineer records in the 440- and 880-yard relays, and three times won the prestigious Penn Relays.
One notable spring Saturday, Owens competed in a track meet and the Gold-Blue spring game. He ran in the preliminaries for Coach Stan Romanoski's harriers during the morning, then hit the gridiron for Coach Bobby Bowden, and returned to the track for the meet's sprint and relay final heats.
Owens was selected as a receiver in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers and played five NFL seasons with the Chargers, Bills and Patriots from 1976-80. Owens also played one year (1983) in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars.
While with San Diego, Owens was named special teams MVP as a kick returner and set the Charger career record for all-purpose running, netting 999 career yards in kickoff returns alone.
Originally from Montgomery, Ala., Owens moved north to attend high school where he starred at Stroudsburg (Pa.) High. As a senior, Owens led Stroudsburg to an 11-0 record and established Pennsylvania records for touchdowns (42) and yards rushing (2,061). He was named a Kodak All-American, UPI and AP all-state, all-Big 33, all-Lehigh Valley and all-Eastern Pennsylvania for Coach Fred Ross.
After his successful professional football career, Owens returned to Stroudsburg, where he instructed at an alternative school for the mentally handicapped. He also had coaching duties with Stroudsburg High School, leading the 1984 freshman team to an undefeated campaign.
Following a venture into the construction business during 1986-87, Owens returned to what, along with football, he calls one of his two loves in life, the mental health profession. He currently works in the Bethlehem School District, preparing mentally handicapped and mentally ill individuals for their adult lives.
Owens has two children, son Artie Owens II (who is a senior at Susquehanna and plays football for the NCAA Division III school) and daughter Whitney. Owens and his wife Patricia reside in Whitehall, Pa.