T.O. hosts 'Thanks for the Love' bash

Updated: June 25, 2009, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- Terrell Owens was too busy to stop and give the little kid a high-five. Instead, the boy with his hand up was told to get with the other kids his age.

It was time to work.

"Don't ask me any personal questions -- not how old I am, not what do I drive," Owens barked to about 150 kids taking part in his fourth annual two-day summer camp. "Right now, we're here to talk football."

Rude or focused? Serious or showboating?

Love him or hate?

As T.O. made his personal Farewell To Dallas tour this week -- holding the kids' camp and a "Thanks For The Love" party for adults -- the flamboyant receiver goes out pretty much the way he came in: providing plenty of fodder for folks on either side of the love-hate debate.

Those who love him will point to his willingness to return months after being dumped by the Cowboys, and to anchor this trip around working with kids. They note the scholarships given out to cover the $195 camp fee and the promotion that brought a boy and his family from Buffalo, N.Y., so folks in his new place of employment don't feel left out. The party at a 48th floor downtown ballroom is a nice touch.

T.O. haters will point out the camp wasn't filled up, even with all the giveaway spots. And, if Owens really wanted to do something nice, he could've made it free, especially considering all the corporate sponsorship and the six varieties of outdated "Getcha Popcorn Ready" T-shirts being sold. Critics also could make an issue of Owens arriving midway through the first day; he couldn't get a flight the night before? And that party? Tickets cost $20 to $60.

Owens was a divisive figure from the day Jerry Jones hired him.

The Cowboys needed a game-breaking receiver and Owens is among the NFL's best. Yet he keeps changing teams because he causes as many headaches for teammates as for opponents.

His three seasons in Dallas provided it all: Great plays, big numbers and a huge assist in turning Tony Romo from unknown backup to Pro Bowl starter, plus dramas like his accidental overdose and locker-room conspiracy theories that were disruptive no matter whether they were real. Perhaps the bottom line: an 0-2 playoff record and no postseason trip last year, when the Cowboys were midseason Super Bowl favorites.

Jones was Owens' most loyal supporter -- until March, when the owner told the receiver to take a hike and he wound up with the Bills.

Plenty of people around Dallas are sorry to see him go, including Sandra Fulcher, a single mother from Plano whose 7-year-old son, Christian, earned a camp scholarship with an essay about what makes a champion.

"He said he thought a champion was someone who helped someone get better, like T.O. helping people at their position," Fulcher said. (Sam Hurd, Owens' main protege on the Cowboys, was among the guest instructors.)

Hurd and Owens started Wednesday's afternoon session teaching route-running drills to teenagers. Then Owens joined the youngest kids, like Christian Fulcher, who were working on running plays.

The hulking pro lined up over the center and growled, "You scared of me?" He then let the kid drive him backward. Owens did it over and over, sometimes rubbing his shoulder and moaning, "You're beating me up!" It never got old for the smiling Owens or the children beaming about strength they didn't know they had.

"I know in the past he's said and done some things," Sandra Fulcher said. "But I like the fact he's giving back to the community. It says a lot that he came down here even though he's not on the team. It adds closure for the little kids. ... I'm happy and impressed."

Reporters were barred from his motivational speech and discussion with the children (which was when the kids got to ask his age, what he drives and anything else). But, ultimately, T.O. talked.

"I miss Dallas, but I have a new team," Owens said. "It's already behind me."

Asked what went wrong between him and Romo, he repeatedly said, "I don't know."

"Obviously, somebody is lying," Owens said. "All I know is that I'm not here."

Jones has said Owens was cut to help establish Romo as the team's unquestioned leader. Owens said Romo could've established himself before but "that didn't happen."

"So I will be the scapegoat," T.O. said. "I'm not here any more and I wish him well."

Rude or focused? Serious or showboating?

Love him or hate?

Once again, Owens left himself open to any and all interpretations.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press