Meet Chris Owens, the Alabama football draft prospect who might run your favorite NFL team someday
Evaluations of Alabama football offensive tackle Evan Neal are easy to find ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Few are better informed than this one, though.
“Incredible feet and strong as an ox,” reads the assessment. “There’s really not much Evan can’t do. I think where he’s grown over the years is his intelligence. You can see the progression from freshman year when he was a left guard. Then last year, he was at right tackle. Now, he’s at left tackle. He’s had experience on both sides of the field at multiple positions, and he’s starting to take that second- and third-level learning so that he can progress his game to not only help himself now but help himself in the future. Evan is going to be a top-five pick and he is a good person, too, so that just adds onto his character.”
The draft analyst? Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens.
He was at the podium speaking to reporters this past October when he was asked to evaluate his teammate’s game. Owens sounded like a scout.
That’s no coincidence. He aspires to one day be an NFL general manager. Before, however, Owens is chasing his NFL dreams as a player, going through the draft process as he hopes to hear his name called in late April.
Versatility is perhaps his best selling point. He played center, guard and tackle at Alabama, though he projects as an interior lineman.
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His knowledge of each spot enabled the coaching staff to turn to him at each position over his six years in Tuscaloosa, where he was also a 2021 semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the academic Heisman Trophy.
His smarts will serve him well, however, long after his playing career lasts. His curiosity about football has served as the foundation of his career and will be important fuel for future roles in football.
“I still watch a lot of football,” Owens said. “I still go look at people’s film. Obviously, I have Evan as my top tackle. But I want to see what the other tackles look like as well, and I want to see what’s out there and what people are looking at. Then I realize: Wait, I’m part of this same draft class. I’m part of this process, too.”
About this time of year was always among his favorite times of year in the Madden football video game. That’s where his GM dreams began.
He’s played Madden for years. Owens would knock out his homework while still at school, so when he got home he could play Madden.
“If he had some free time, I didn’t have to worry about him doing anything else,” said his mom, Sequin Owens. “He was always on that (darn) game.”
He was focused on building a franchise. Owens always liked reaching the offseason in Madden. He wanted to see who would re-sign with him, whom he needed to extend and what personnel changes he needed to make on the virtual roster he had built.
“There would be years where I wouldn’t even play the season,” Owens said. “I would just simulate to the offseason and worry about rebuilding the team, and when I finally built a Super Bowl team, I played in the Super Bowl.”
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Speaking of Super Bowls, the Saints’ championship during the 2009 season increased his interest. The way New Orleans put the team together to win the Super Bowl fascinated him, having originally lived in Louisiana before moving to Texas.
“Just starting to figure out the little nuance side of football,” Owens said, “that’s kind of where it really started to pique my interest.”
He has always been curious about football, though. When Owens was a kid, his mom often discovered him falling asleep in bed at night while studying playbooks. Seriously.
He observed plenty of football, too. After his 9 a.m. pee wee games ended, he watched college football on Saturdays. Then, he would watch NFL football all day with his mom on Sundays.
When Owens started to play fantasy football, he watched even more. His viewership grew from following one team to just about every team.
And when he got an iPod for the first time, he turned to YouTube to view more film.
High school also brought increased interest in studying the NFL. Switching positions himself, he wanted to see how prevalent moving around was in the pros.
“I started noticing, OK, teams are carrying maybe seven offensive linemen because they have two linemen who can play both sides or play multiple positions,” Owens said. “And they've got one of those guys who can play center. I realized that in order for me to get to where I want to be, being versatile will probably be the most marketable thing for myself and will be the best thing for the team.”
That was the case for Owens at Alabama, and it will be the case in the NFL.
And don’t be surprised if he’s running your favorite NFL team down the road. First, though, he’s giving his dream of playing in the pros all that he can.
That day when Owens spoke in October and shared his GM aspirations, a reporter inquired what Owens would ask potential NFL quarterbacks if he were running a team.
“Can we get back to that in maybe 10-plus years or so?” Owens said. “I don’t know if I am ready for that one right now. I am just kind of worried about this season and this week.”
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Meet the Alabama football NFL draft prospect who wants to be a GM