When the high school year ends, it is time for sports writers to hit the links.
Sometimes the driver is in your hand before the last baseball out is made in Austin. But, that final out marks the conclusion of the school year for writers, just like coaches. It is a sports year that begins in August and continues into June. Actually, it’s year-round for coaches.
Most years I get the opportunity to take part in Benny Rogers’ Coaches Playday Golf Tournament. There is competition, but mostly it is about watching out for golf balls and getting to know coaches off the field or court. Rogers began the tourney more than 30 years ago when he was sports editor at the Athens Review. Later, he became part of the staff at Trinity Valley Community College and he continued the golf tradition.
That’s where I met, or actually got to know, Jim Owens several years back. I would see him at some NFL or college games, but that was his working time.
It was with much sadness that I heard about Coach Owens passing away from local broadcaster Kenny Smith late Fourth of July night.
Coach Owens was a remarkable gentleman who was adept at golf. Coach Owens and Coach (Chris) Frederick (of Brownsboro) were on my team a few years back at the tournament and I thought to myself, “if we don’t win this year, I will never get that coveted trophy.”
Well, we didn’t win but not because of Coach Owens or Coach Frederick. However, the stories I heard and the great time we had was worth 10 trophies.
Coach Owens passed away at age 84. He was born in Grapeland on Jan. 11, 1935. He attended Garland High School, Navarro College and Austin College where he played quarterback. He earned his master’s degree at Texas Tech.
He coached at many schools, including Tarleton State University and Henderson Country Junior College (now TVCC). He was then a scout for the Detroit Lions for more than 20 years.
“Our organization joins the NFL scouting community in mourning the loss of Jim Owens, who worked for the Lions as a pro scout for more than 20 years and enjoyed a distinguished life within the game of football,” the Detroit Lions said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his entire family.”
After retiring, Coach Owens was voted to both the Garland High School and Austin College Sports Halls of Fame. He was an active member at First United Methodist Church in Athens and was a member of Methodist Men for almost 50 years. He volunteered at Friends of the Library at FUMC Athens, Meals on Wheels and Disciples Medical Clinic.
And he was a great golfer, shooting his age or better at least three times. Coach Owens would hit every fairway.
His survivors include daughter Julie Alston and spouse Todd of Lufkin; son John and spouse Felipe Medrado of Houston; son Brian Owens and spouse Julie of Mansfield; grandchildren: Ben Owens and wife Winnie of Hong Kong, Stephen Alston and wife Jacklyn, Meghan Owens, Elise Alston, Karli Owens and Bayli Owens; great grandchildren Naomi Lauren, & Charlotte Marie; sisters: Anita Mitchell and husband Don, and Margie Hazelip and husband Bill; and sister-in-law Roberta Svien.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 61 years, Charlotte Jean Owens, his parents: John R. Owens and Lillian Owens, brother John Owens and wife Jodie.
His funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church in Athens with burial to follow at Athens Cemetery.
In leu of flowers, donations can be made to Disciples Medical Clinic, or Friends of the Library, FUMC, or the charity of your choice.
East Texas has lost a great man in Coach Owens.