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RC Owens: High above the competition

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RC Owens: High above the competition

RC Owens, left, at the podium with Y.A. Tittle. Owens was the receiver and Tittle was the quarterback for the famous "Alley Oop" pass play when the San Francisco 49ers played at Kezar Stadium.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED February 15, 2009 5:01 a.m.
During his playing days, Raleigh C. Owens was known for his great athletic ability and uncanny leaping ability.

He was a two-sport star, excelling in basketball and football in both college and the pros.

These days, most folks know RC Owens for his generosity. At 74, he puts in plenty of time in providing his service to the community. For his efforts, the National Football League Retired Players Association and the Providence Foundation of San Francisco honored the Manteca resident last September with a “This is your Life RC ‘Alley Oop’ Owens.”

Among those attending the special function for the retired administrator for the five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers included former players Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Jeff Fuller, Dwight Hicks and coach Denny Green.

Owens, in turn, was able to donate $2,000 each to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manteca / Lathrop, the Calvary Baptist Church in Santa Monica, the NFL Alumni Northern California Chapter, and the National Kidney Foundation of Northern California.

The place he calls home will honor one of its most recognizable athletes.

Owens along with Major League Baseball catcher Ken Huckaby, coach Mike Morenzone, sports official Robert Scharmann, East Union High athletic director Bill Stricker, stock car racer Ron Strmiska, pro golfer Kevin Wentworth and the 2006-07 East Union High girls golf team will be inducted into Manteca’s Sports Heroes 2009 Hall of Distinction.

The second annual awards dinner will be held at the Big League Dream Sports Complex beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28. Cost is $35.

“I was so delighted about being selected,” said Owens, who has lived in Manteca for seven years.

He credits his community endeavors including sitting on the board of the Manteca Sports Commission, which operates under the Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau, for his selection.

RC Owens, who was inspired by his mother – she was first female president for her NCAAP chapter in Santa Monica and, at age 70, earned her degree at UCLA – played in the NFL from 1957 through 1964, in a time prior to today’s sophisticated passing game.

He was the Larry Fitzgerald of his day.

Mike Wilson, a former pass-catcher during the Niners’ championship run of the 1980s, made that comparison back when he was the wide receivers coach for the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago.

“He called me and said, ‘Oop, we have this kid here who plays just like you,’” Owens recalled.

He earned the nickname of “Alley Oop” by utilizing his tremendous leaping ability to haul in passes from quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who would throw the ball high in the air in the end zone much like a jump ball in basketball.

If not for football, Owens, who is a 1952 graduate of Santa Monica High, would have played in the National Basketball Association.

In 1958, he was having contractual problems with San Francisco 49ers and, for a short period, played on a traveling NBA all-star team consisting of Bob Pettit, George Yardley, and Cliff Hagen. He was a 14th round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers.

His West squad took on an East team consisting of NBA greats Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.

Owens attended the College of Idaho. On the hardwood, he starred alongside Elgin Baylor, who admired his college roommate on the grid iron and once considered trying out for football.

“‘Rabbit,’ that was his nickname, don’t do it. As a basketball player, you’re the greatest thing to come along since sliced cheese,” recalled Owens, who averaged 27 points per game while collecting 2,000 points and 2,000 rebounds.

He played abroad on his champion AAU basketball team representing the U.S. His squad managed to defeat Olympic teams from Europe not to mention those behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War.

Owens wasn’t always gifted athlete.

He remembered as a youngster having two left feet. This caused him to work even harder, relying on his coaches and teachers.

“I listened to them and it paid off,” Owens said. “That’s the message I want to pass on to young people.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your elders. They’re the ones who can offer you the best advice.”

For more information on the Hall of Distinction awards dinner, call (209) 823-7229.

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