September 2022 ~
A few things seem constant in the life of Jeff Owens (Marshall, 1975):
- Wanting the ball in his hands, literally or figuratively.
- Big games or big game, either being in them or going after them.
Owens’ ability to make plays and achieve success helped him crash into the PIL Hall of Fame in 2004 the way he used to slash into the end zone for the Marshall Minutemen and Linfield Wildcats.
Owens played three sports for Marshall – football, basketball and baseball – then shined on the gridiron at Linfield, earning a spot in that school’s Hall of Fame as well.
He has spent more than four decades since then as an investment advisor and is president of BPG Wealth Management in Clackamas.
When he’s not working these days, his sports of choice are often hunting and fishing, including the faraway hunt for big game. He recently returned from his ninth trek to Africa, and “I’ve hunted just about everything,” from rhinoceroses to elephants.
Owens grew up in Southeast Portland, near 91st Avenue and Pine Street. He attended Clark Elementary School and Binnsmead for junior high. Marshall was in his blood long before he ever got there and graduated in 1975. Younger brother Pat was a quarterback.
“I was destined to be a Minuteman for sure,” Owens says.
The son of a University of Portland baseball player and Brooklyn Dodgers draft pick, Owens was active in sports from a young age. He played Powell Boys Club football in fifth grade and Pop Warner football at Lents Park, and football always was his favorite sport. He remembers winning three straight Pop Warner city titles with many kids who went on to Marshall as well.
“We had a good group of guys,” he says.
Darrell Everett was Marshall’s coach and knew all about the young Owens. When Jeff was a freshman on the frosh team, Everett made sure to also have Owens with the varsity on Friday nights, on the bus and in the locker room, so he could get exposed to the bright lights and big games that would come his way.
Marshall was a force in football in those days, with players such as Ron Cuie and Jeff Toberg who “seemed bigger than life” to the up-and-coming Owens.
But Everett “was a team guy who wasn’t into individuals,” and Owens recalls how the coach had his players sing songs as he tried to get everyone unified and proud to be in a Marshall uniform.
“We would talk about being born and raised in Southeast Portland, and that was who we were – Southeast Portland kids and proud of it,” Owens says.
Before he got to high school and then at Marshall, Owens tried his best to emulate his football idols, running backs Jimmy Taylor and Paul Hornung, two stars with the dominate Green Bay Packers of coach Vince Lombardi.
“I was always a Packers fan,” says Owens, who wore No. 31, Taylor’s number.
Owens’ father was a fireman and had access to Multnomah Stadium, which used to play host to Harry Glickman-promoted NFL exhibition games. Jeff around the age of 8, got inside and close up for one game in which he was able to meet Taylor – “a nice guy.”
The 5-10 Owens was all-PIL in football in 1973 and 1974 and all-state in ‘74. He was recognized as a linebacker as well as for his potent rushing out of the fullback or tailback spot.
As a ball carrier, he fit the mold Everett was looking for in a leading back in the M-Men’s traditional, power-run offense.
“I had really good feet. I could make you miss,” Owens says. “But I was an up-the-middle guy, and Everett wanted to bring it at you, run right at you and make you try to stop it.”
Standout football teammates included a speedy running back in Ray Clancy, a good QB in Randy Davidson and a wide receiver, Dave Stief, who went on to play six years in the NFL.
At Marshall, Owens also earned two varsity letters in basketball and starred in baseball. He was a two-time all-PIL baseball player (pitcher and outfield) and MVP of the team as a senior.
Lewis & Clark was interested in him for football, “but I really wanted to win,” and that led him to Linfield and to legendary coach Ad Rutschman.
The Wildcats have a record streak of 65 winning seasons in football that began in 1956. Rutschman’s teams, from 1968-91, were 182-49-3 and won 15 conference championships.
At Linfield, he played four seasons, starting three. He twice made the all-Northwest Conference team and NAIA All-America honorable mention list. A dual-threat fullback, he scored 30 touchdowns, 27 on the ground, and totaled 1,745 yards on offense and kickoff return teams.
More important, he was part of four NWC champions, teams that were 30-8 overall and 23-2 in league, reaching the postseason three times. In one game against Cal Lutheran, he set an NAIA playoff record with 11 receptions.
His career rushing touchdowns and overall scoring set Linfield records that stood for 17 seasons. He still ranks tied for second in career rushing touchdowns.
Owens and Rutschman, now 90, became close, and they now own beach cabins that are next to each other.
“I talk to him just about every day,” Owens says. “My ‘Cat blood runs pretty deep.”
Owens coached football for about 15 years, some of it at Clackamas High and under Ray Baker. He still “loves” college football.
“The thing about football is that you develop relationships, and they last forever,” Owens says. “That might be the best thing about sports.”
Owens majored in business administration, and right out of college he got involved in the world of financial planning. He got an internship with the company that he bought in 1992 and still owns. He’s logged 43 years there.
“I went into the business with one of my uncles,” Owens says. “I didn’t mind working real hard, but I wanted to have the opportunity to win.”
When the call came from one of his former Marshall coaches, Ken Trapp, informing him that he had been voted into the PIL Hall of Fame, “I was surprised, but really honored,” Owens says.
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~ Profile written by Steve Brandon (Cleveland, 1972)