Three years ago, Terrell Owens finally made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If not for the late Terez Paylor, it might not have happened.
Before 2018, Owens had been shunned by the Hall of Fame voters multiple times, and some media members seemed intent on keeping him out of Canton for the long haul. That was before Paylor spoke up on his behalf during a meeting of the Hall of Fame selection committee.
According to Newsday's Bob Glauber, Paylor spoke passionately about what Owens meant to him and his friends growing up as young, African-American males. By the time he was finished talking, Glauber says "you could feel the change" in the room.
Paylor passed away last week, tragically and unexpectedly, at the too-young age of 37. The Yahoo Sports writer and podcaster left behind an indelible mark on the football media world.
Owens spoke with Glauber after Paylor's passing, telling the longtime journalist just how much it meant to the polarizing wide receiver to learn that Paylor went to bat for him.
"I get glassy-eyed just thinking about it," Owens told Newsday. "My condolences to his family. It’s so sad. I didn’t hear anything about Terez and his perspective and how they were deliberating on me. It’s so unfortunate that I’m learning of this after this man’s passing. Honestly, I wish I could have spoken to him to say thank you for what he did."
NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco, who presented Owens' Hall of Fame candidacy that day, also spoke with Glauber to provide context on the type of impact Paylor's words had on voters.
"To hear a young Black man talk about what drew him to the sport that he loved and what made an impression on him as a young man growing up was a perspective that I had personally never considered when it comes to that [Hall of Fame meeting] room," Maiocco said.
"There’s the old saying that you know what a Hall of Famer is when you see him. Terez basically said that, growing up, that’s what a Hall of Famer in his community, among his friends and the people who shared the same experiences, looked like. Boom, that right there, that’s a Hall of Famer. I think that opened people’s eyes to a new perspective and a way of defining what a Hall of Famer is."
Owens may not always have been the perfect teammate or employee, but the dude brought it every Sunday and is one of the best to ever play the wide receiver position. He is a definite Hall of Famer and should have been in on his first time on the ballot.
Good on Paylor for making sure the right thing happened.