Big T Talks Little T
You know who seems to genuinely like kids, probably a lot more than he likes their parents? Terrell Owens. Last night at Borders Books & Music in Preston Royal, T.O. showed up to read from and sign his new BenBella Books-published kids book Little T Learns to Share, which he kinda wrote (it's also credited to a "celebrity ghost writer," Courtney Parker, and illustrator Todd Harris). After he read the entire book--didn't take long, about five minutes--T.O. took some questions from the 40 or so kids who were sitting on the floor right in front of Owens. They raised their little hands, and from the mouth of babes came a few gems, such as:
"Do you ever want to play a different position?" (Owens said, in short, not so much.)
"Who gives you the ball more: Romo or Bledsoe?" (He smiled. The crowd laughed. He said something diplomatic, like Bledsoe got him the ball till it was Romo's turn to get him the ball.)
"Does it hurt when you fall down?" ("Yeah, I've gotten a couple of boo-boos.")
"Who's thrown you more touchdowns: Romo or Bledsoe?" (Owens figured Bledsoe has tossed him four TDs before getting yanked for Romo, who's thrown him three. I could check the stats on this, but I'm not gonna.)
Then there was a drawing for an autographed jersey, which Owens would sign on the spot. He reached into a basket and drew the name of a boy, no older than 8 or 9, who happened to be sitting right in front of Owens. The kid popped up, arms raised, when he heard his name called. His face got stop-sign red; he looked like he was going to cry. He ran around the podium and threw his arms around Owens, who hugged him back before signing the jersey.
"I am not writing these books to redefine myself or anything like that," Owens told Unfair Park earlier in the evening. "Throughout the work I am doing in these books and the message it gets across, people will get a feel for who I am as a person as opposed to what they read or hear about me in the media. What people don't realize--well, they probably do, and they don't take the time to note it--is I am not the only person playing the receiver position being labeled selfish. This is nothing new. I am not reinventing the position or myself. This is who I am."
What has been the reaction to the book so far--at least from kids?
Just going by some of my friends and their kids, they kinda take to it well. My daughter's mom, she's read it. At the beginning they get the feel that Little T doesn't share, and then toward the end, they notice that he does share. So it's definitely making an impact.
When did you decide to do this?
It's been two or three years in the making. My friend Courtney Parker, who co-wrote it with me, she's been dibbling and dabbling in things in L.A., and we finally together and made this thing happen. She's done a lot of the hard background work in terms of finding the publisher and illustrator, and we finally got it out.
What did you want the first book to say, since this appears to be the first in a series, right?
Just kinda like me going through some of the things I've gone through. Obviously, me being a professional football player, receiving a lot of negative limelight as far as me being selfish and things of that nature. It's kind of hard to separate who I am truly, aside from how the media portrays me. We kinda started out from that standpoint, then we have some other books in the making.
Were you aware from the get-go how this book would reflect your professional life?
Yeah. I think anybody sees me doin' a little kids book and then sees how I am portrayed in the media, they think, "Aw, man, what is this guy thinking?" But Courtney knows who I am as a person. I've known her throughout my college years, and we kept in contact since then, so she's seen the negative media that I've gotten. I've always had this affection for kids. I have kids of my own, and when I was in college, I volunteered at a church there and kinda stood back and looked at how those kids admired me. And at that point I was just a nobody--a college student playing two sports. They looked at me as almost a hero, kinda like a superstar, and at that time I wasn't. They gravitated to me, though, and I welcomed it with open arms.
Somebody said the next book's gonna be called Little T Learns to Say I'm Sorry.
Either that or Little T Learns What Not to Say. [He grins.]
So it is a different way for you to reflect your public life, then, in these books for children.
Definitely. It shows you that I'm constantly growing as a person. Kids will read this, and hopefully their parents can share with them that, yeah, I'm a professional football player, but outside of that I'm also a human and I make mistakes and I can own up to those mistakes and take responsibility for those mistakes. It's a learning process. --Robert Wilonsky