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High School:  Norte Del Rio

College:  UCLA

* NFL Career: 6 Years (San Francisco, Tampa Bay)

* UCLA Hall of Fame Member

* 1976 Track & Field Olympian

* 1977 NCAA Individual Champion - 110 meter High Hurdles

As a child, James’ athletic future was very uncertain: suffering from severe asthma no one could have ever predicted what he would eventually accomplish.  There was one thing that separated him from all others.  Speed.  Ever since the age of 7 James had the title of “fastest kid on the block”.  Growing up in Del Paso Heights he was a three sport star but his first love was running.


After a stellar career at Norte Del Rio, James received a rare dual sports scholarship and became a two sport star at UCLA .  He became an All-Conference selection on both the Bruin football and track & field teams.  As a halfback, he had eight 100 yard games and ranks 12th in career rushing yards with 2,074.  He was voted team MVP in 1977 and received the Outstanding Senior Award in 1978.  On the track he was just as impressive breaking the school record in the 110 meter High Hurdles as a freshmen.  He holds the second fastest time of 13.36 seconds in UCLA history and won an NCAA individual championship in 1977. 

In 1976 James was introdcued to the world as he represented the United States as a member of the track and field team at the Montreal Olympic Games.  James made it to the 110 High Hurdles Final and was a legitimate contender to win a medal.  James got out of the blocks fast and led the race after the first 30 meters. His foot clipped the third hurdle which slowed him down enough to finish out of medal contention.  He finished in 6th place but showed is greatness and talent.  


After graduating from UCLA, James had a dilemma of whether to continue a promising track career or play professional football.  The decision was made for him in April of 1979 as James was drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.  Bill Walsh just took over the 49ers and thought so highly of James that he drafted him 29th overall. He was selected ahead Hall of Fame Quarterback, Joe Montana, who San Francisco chose with their next pick at number 36. 


James played two years with the 49ers and in 1981 was traded to Tampa Bay where another legendary coach, John McKay, wanted the talented Owens as his featured running back.  His first carry in a Buccaneer uniform went for a touchdown and James found a home in Tampa. James spent four years in Tampa Bay. Overall he played a total of six years in the NFL scoring 13 touchdowns and amassing over 5,200 all purpose yards.


James became one of the few professional football players that had a successful career in the NFL and represented his country as an Olympian.  Since his playing days, James has worked as a Behavior Health Specialist working in the field of Psychology.  He has worked at various hospitals and has helped those in need.  He is a motivational speaker and a volunteer with Special Olympics World Games.  James currently lives in Long Beach, but visits Sacramento regularly and still has many close ties to the community. He will always be known as one of the fastest men to ever come from Sacramento and has the distinction of being the most successful two sport star both collegiately and professionally that our area has ever seen.


James Owens​

Professional Football / Track & Field

"This induction into Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame means the world to me. This award completes the circle of my life’s athletic journey. As a native Sacramentan, this is such an honor. It is here that my athletic ability was developed, my soul was inspired, my tenacity and encouragement to stay the course was created and the support to run my own race was enforced.  

Sacramento, I thank you."

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