- Ben Houser
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Terrell Owens parlayed his NFL resurgence into an off-the-field cause this week, helping to lift the spirits of a young boy in need.
Owens reached out to 6-year-old Josiah Viera with a heartfelt e-mail and a package that included a jersey and his eighth touchdown ball of the season.
Viera suffers from a rare genetic disease called Progeria.
"Josiah's face lit up like a Christmas tree as I handed him the football and said this is from Sunday's game," said Josiah's mother, Jennifer. "He gave me the biggest smile as I read what T.O. had wrote on the ball and jersey."
The life expectancy of a Progeria child is between 8 and 13 years old. Josiah, from Hegins, Pa., is aging at a faster rate than most Progeria children.
"I can only guess from the e-mail that T.O. wrote me that Josiah's story had touched him and inspired him," Jennifer said.
Owens said in an e-mail Thursday he would wear gloves for the rest of the seaon with Josiah's initials on them.
Josiah had been featured in a segment on ESPN's "E:60" earlier this month. Owens later contacted Josiah's mother via e-mail.
"You may or may not know not me but who I am doesn't matter," Owens wrote. "My name is Terrell Owens, I currently play for the Cincinnati Bengals. My reason for e-mailing you is the E:60 story on your precious gift from God, your son Josiah. I was about to get ready for bed when I caught it somewhere in the middle and when I grasped the content of what was going on ... I was glued to the TV. I must say that you are a strong woman and you have an even stronger son."
Owens, 36, was considered by many around the NFL to be washed up and old this offseason.
But he ranks among the NFL leaders in receiving after Week 11, already outperforming his numbers from a year ago.
"When you were in the hospital holding him for what you thought was the last time and as you went through the night and the next day Josiah was still holding on ... I said to myself 'Wow', what a blessing," Owens wrote. "We all as humans have our struggles but watching Josiah's perseverance, his passion for life and his love for baseball made me forget my own struggles and of how blessed I am. Your son was a true inspiration for me as I prepared to play the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday."
Days earlier, Owens had posted a series of messages on his Twitter account about Josiah and the E:60 feature, vowing to "get TD ball 4 him."
"I am very honored that T.O. not only took the time to write, but also to send his gear that he wore for the Bills-Bengals game," Josiah's mother said. "That is something we will cherish."
Ben Houser is a Senior Producer for ESPN's E:60.
5hEric D. Williams