STARKVILLE — Ben Owens never envisioned the recruiting process would take this long.
But the Starkville Academy senior’s patience paid off Wednesday when he celebrated his decision to play football at Belhaven University in Jackson.
Replete with a gold bow tie for the occasion that he already had, Owens capped his year on the school’s final day. Graduation ceremonies will be tonight at Mississippi State’s Newell-Grissom Building.
Owens likely will have to find a tie of a different color to go with his graduation gown, but Wednesday he looked the part with a tie that matched Belhaven’s colors (green and gold).
“I was fortunate to have one because I definitely didn’t want to go out and buy one,” said Owens, who began his career at Malden High School in Missouri.
Owens said he was “blessed” to be a part of the Starkville Academy family in his final season. He said he “did it right” in his senior year and he had an “amazing” season with some great teammates.
Owens, a transfer from Starkville High School, played an integral role at quarterback with classmate Noah Methvin in leading Starkville Academy to a 21-14 overtime victory against Indianola Academy 21-14 on Nov. 18 in Jackson Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA State title.
Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said Owens had 100 percent buy-in when he arrived at the school. He said Owens overcame ups and downs, including a knee injury in the middle of the season, to get a chance to continue a football career that is just beginning to tap into his potential.
“It is a great story that someday I hope he writes a book about, or somebody writes a book about, because it is a really cool story about what Noah Methvin and Ben Owens accomplished,” Nicholson said. “Luckily I was along for the ride.
“I kept telling him to be patient and not to give up. At some point, reality sets in and says, ‘I’m done.’ I remember he texted me out of the blue and said, ‘Coach, Belhaven just called me.’ It’s fitting because whatever plan God had for him patience is a very important part of that. He has continued to trust and believe in his abilities and one day somebody would pay attention.”
Owens admits he thought playing at three high schools would lead college coaches to wonder why he moved around so much. Still, he said he has yearned to play college football ever since he was in kindergarten. He figured if he played well enough he could get his name out there.
Owens’ play this season attracted the attention of several schools, but Owens didn’t feel they were the right fit. As the months passed, Owens said he wondered if he would get an opportunity. It wasn’t until a coaching change at Belhaven that the new coaches at the NAIA school watched highlights of Owens and contacted him.
“They sat down and watched my film and they said they called me within five minutes,” Owens said. “They said they wanted me to come tour the school and come play. It was a God thing. It was really late, but I am glad it happened. Better late than never.”
Owens said the call from the coaches at Belhaven came two-and-a-half weeks ago. He said he was in the middle of studying for final exams and still contemplating his future as a football player. If it sounds tough to try to stay patient in that situation, Owens managed to do it and to find a school he loves and a program he is excited to join.
“I can’t really say I knew it was going to happen or anything like that. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I have never seen anything else for myself,” Owens said. “It has always been college football for me. During the season, I kind of had a little setback and had knee surgery and missed a few games. I had doubts at that point. Thankfully coaches were able to reach out and talk to me about it. Once I knew I got my name on the radar, I felt pretty confident.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.