Another of the great Oklahoma ’49ers has died. Few are as instrumental in college football history as Jim Owens. Owens, an all-American end at OU in 1949, died Saturday at the age of 82 in his Bigfork, Mont., home. His son told the Seattle Times that Owens had been in poor health in recent years, with some problems related to his heart and high blood pressure.
Owens was a University of Washington icon and ranks with Darrell Royal as the greatest player/coach combo produced by Bud Wilkinson. In 2003, UW dedicated a statue of Owens outside the gates at Husky Stadium. Owens coached Washington 18 years, 1957-74, compiling a record of 99-82-6, including a 2-1 record in Rose Bowls. Owens is credited with leading a renaissance of West Coast football. Owens was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982, but not as a coach. As a player. Owens, a 1945 graduate of Oklahoma City’s Classen High School, in 1999 was named the tight end on The Oklahoman’s all-century high school team. In 1946, Owens arrived at OU as one of the war veterans who came in as grizzled freshmen and helped Jim Tatum and Wilkinson establish the Sooner football dynasty. The 1949 team went 11-0 and had five all-Americans, including Owens. "Jimmy was a great player,” said Claude Arnold, a backup quarterback during Owens’ playing days and the starter on OU’s 1950 national title team. "It’s unfortunate that maybe he was playing on split-T teams where we didn’t throw much. He could have played in a much later time.” Owens coached for Wilkinson, who then recommended Owens for a job on Bear Bryant’s Kentucky staff.
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