JACKSONVILLE, GA – Luke Boone can't remember the name of the only Florida fan who lives in town…
Owens Has Specific Swagger
Share The true freshman cornerback quickly lays out at least three times Green, Georgia's star receiver, has truly gotten the best of him. A post route for a score in one of the Bulldogs' fall camp scrimmages particularly stands out as Owens recaps. "Yeah, I can remember," Owens said. "It's makes me mad, but that's A.J. It's making me better, so I don't really get mad. I knew I should have did that though." This is the attitude on display, the confidence just below the surface. "I guess the boys call it swag. He's got a little swag." Richt said. By all accounts, Owens doesn't carry himself like a true freshman. Actually, he carries himself differently than almost every other player on the Bulldogs' roster. Coming to Athens from Jacksonville, Fla., Owens has a different attitude, style and swagger. From the first day of summer workouts, Owens made a name for himself—and not in a cliché sense—his temmates actually gave him a nickname. "When I first got here, we were doing 7-on-7 and I was doing really good," he said. "They started calling me D.O. because that's my name. It wasn't Derek or Derek Owens anymore. It was straight D.O." And D.O. has been making plays ever since. During what true freshman linebacker Brandon Burrows calls an, "intimidating couple of weeks for us freshmen," Owens thrived in the summer. He didn't talk on-the-field first. He didn't tell anyone he was ready, or what he planned to do. But he never backed down from a challenge, even if Green came calling. "That's one thing that separated him from other young people I saw coming in," said junior corner Brandon Boykin. "Even though he was just a freshman, he was confident he could come in and play with us. He thinks he can go out there and guard whoever it may be." Owens spent the summer gaining respect from his teammates. He proved he was capable of holding his own and producing early on, but there was something about the way he played that stuck with the other cornerbacks. "Derek Owens is a different player," said sophomore Branden Smith. "He have that speed, you know, he's just electric. Like me, I say speed kills. He has that speed. He fights hard. He's a little guy that will stick his head in there. He's the type of guy that will get an interception and come back on the next play looking for another one. He's a hard kid." Respect was the goal. Respect was earned. With a week off in-between the end of summer workouts and the beginning of fall camp, Owens stayed in Athens instead of going back home. He wasn't about to give up an opportunity to keep showing out in front of his peers. "Yeah, it's like I've been showing them a lot," he said. "I haven't been going out there slacking on any play. I'm making plays in camp from the first week. You know, I guess they haven't really seen anyone come in making plays like that. They trust me and have a feel for the type of player I am. They know when they see a player. I guess they see me as a player. That's how it went." Paralleling the on-the-field breakout, Owens has crafted the role of an alleviator away from football. He's provides comedic relief, sometimes in a loud and brash manner. Above all else, he's always positive and up-tempo. "I'm not just laying back, I'm just having fun," Owens said. "I'm trying to get the other freshmen, I'm like, ‘C'mon man, ya'll need to enjoy this. Not everybody gets this opportunity.' I'm going to enjoy mine no matter what. They just like how I'm acting. I'm not like everyone else. I have my own style. They like that." Picture this: It's 6 a.m. as Georgia's players awake to get ready for an early morning scrimmage. One voice—above the rest—is heard in the hallway. It's Derek Owens. "They'll be like, ‘Man, D.O. shut up,'" he said. "I'm always saying, ‘Man, ya'll need to be up and crunk this morning.'" Owens style is influenced by his Florida upbringing. Known for his football abilities first, Owens has another skill that transcends in another forum. "This guy likes to dance," said senior Vance Cuff. "You know what I mean? When he hears music he has some skills. He has some dancing skills. I'm from South Georgia and I can't dance. So when those guys get at it, I'm holding up the wall." "He has a couple of moves," said freshman safety Marc Deas, a fellow Florida native. "We all have our own little moves here and there. It's different up here, so when they see us doing our Florida dances it's kind of new." Owens likes to hear music produced in the Sunshine State. Songs from lesser-known artists, like DJ Chipman, take Owens to another level. "I be having all the boys doing these Florida dances," Owens said. "It's been fine around me. "I just be me. Even though I'm in college, people sometimes change and say, ‘I can't do this or I can't do that.' It's like when it comes to football and school I still be me. I can't change. I keep doing what I'm doing. It's just the person I am. I'm not disrespectful - I'm respectful." When it comes to on-the-field activity, the conversation always reverts back to Green. Considered by many as the best receiver in the nation, Green offers Owens the biggest possible challenge. He wants to be the best. He wants to beat the best. Owens has spent much of his free time scheming to get one over on Green. "Like when I go up against A.J., it's different than the other receivers," he said. "When I go up against other receivers I can stare at the quarterback a little longer and play them. But when I stick A.J. it's like you have to find a way to beat him. But I can't do and play him how I play the other receivers. I just have to look at him the whole time and watch what he does. If I take my eye off of him and look at the quarterback, he'll be gone." "Every time I turn around, he's guarding A.J. Green," Cuff said. "I tell him by default, win or lose, you still learned something. You're guarding the best receiver, to me, in the nation. You know what I mean? He definitely is going to teach you something. If you keep guarding him and you're close to him, then that means you have the next guy covered. That's helping him out a lot. And A.J. is being A.J., so he's giving it to him." Green has won his fair share of the battles. But Owens can recall a few victories of his own. Discussing those moments send Owens' eyes and expression into a state of intensity, as if they just occurred. "We had a couple of times when we had plays on the goal line and I broke the ball dow"," Owens said. "It was a jump ball and I got in there, and the coaches were like, ‘Yeah, Yeah.' Then we were doing the two-minute drill, and I was stopping him, getting in there and batting the ball down and doing a lot. They couldn't score. They had a minute to get down and score, and I was doing good in coverage. The coaches liked that, and I felt good, too. I was like, ‘They didn't get the chance to catch the ball.' One play he was looking for a flag, but the referee didn't call a flag. There shouldn't have been a flag. I felt good about that one right there. I understand how everything is." And in the same manner Owens won over his defensive peers, he's gained Green's respect too. "No he's not afraid," Green said. "That's one thing I like about him is that he doesn't care who it is, he'll still give what he's got. He's still got a little growing to do, but he's going to be a good corner." One of only four freshmen to play in Georgia's season-opening 55-7 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Owens has already nabbed a highlight-style hit. On a punt return, he laid a block that drew the coveted "OOOHHHHH" from the Bulldog Nation when replayed on the video screen in Sanford. To his teammates, the hit was just another feather in Owens confident cap. "He's going to come back wanting some more," Smith said." He's going to fight. He's going to keep fighting to the end. Like we say, ‘Finish the drill,' and that's what he's going to do."
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