A drive to raise $75,000 for a statue of Steve Owens that immortalizes Miami’s favorite son officially kicked off on July 3.
The campaign — “42 for 36” — will last 42 days.
Owens’ number as a member of the Miami Wardog football team was 42 and his number at the University of Oklahoma, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1969, was 36.
“It’s really exciting,” said committee chair Bill Osborn. “There is nothing more Miami than honoring Miami’s favorite son.”
The drive will run from July 3 until Aug. 14 and will help pay for the Nick Calcagno-designed statue that will anchor the Honors Plaza that is being constructed in the south end zone of the Miami Multi-Purpose Sports Complex at Red Robertson Field.
The Honors Plaza is Phase III of the stadium improvement project that included turf and new lighting (Phase I) as well as new seating, press box with suites, scoreboard, concessions and restroom areas and a locker room for Miami Public Schools football teams (Phase II).
The Miami City Council approved funding for the plaza construction project in February.
The Miami Community Facilities Authority also has approved money to be used in the plaza work.
Money raised from the campaign also will go to lighting and future upkeep.
“The MCFA is excited to partner with the City of Miami, Miami Public School and NEO to begin the south end zone Honors project,” said Dr. Jeff Hale, chair of the MCFA. “This first phase will provide a special events plaza, improved walkways and an exciting addition to include an impressive Heisman trophy statue of Steve Owens.
"Much of the credit goes to Neal Johnson and Bill Osborn for their vision and hard work in raising roughly $75,000 in private donations to honor Steve and Barbara Owens.”
The 6-foot tall statue is a duplicate of the one that was dedicated in OU’s Heisman Park, located on the east side of Owen Field, in 2006.
It will include a list of donors on the base.
There are four levels of giving: $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000.
Donors will have their names inscribed on a plaque on the statue according to the level of their donation, which is tax deductible.
Osborn said all donations will be accepted, but only the major donors ($500 and more) will be listed on the plaque.
“We want to honor Steve for his athletic prowess, but also, more importantly, for his sense of community and gracious acknowledgement of the role that Miami has played in his success,” Osborn said.
Owens began his love of football playing in the Pop Warner program in Miami.
He earned four letters in track and three each in football and basketball.
In 1965, Owens was named an all-stater in football and shared back of the year honors with Rick Baldridge of Lawton, when he rushed for 948 yards on 134 carries and scored 101 points for the Wardogs.
He accounted for 57 percent of Miami’s total offense his senior year, touching the ball 230 times.
Owens was also a defensive standout for the Wardogs. He had 66 tackles and 34 assists as a senior. He had seven interceptions (18 total over three years), deflected five passes and had a fumble recovery.
He was a three-event state champion in track, winning the high hurdles, high jump and long jump.
Owens also earned all-conference honors in basketball.
He also was a four-year member of the MHS student council, serving one year as president, as well as the Science Club and “M” Club. He attended Boys State and received the Masonic Outstanding Student Award.
Owens became synonymous with Sooner football, setting seven NCAA and nine Big Eight Conference rushing records.
He was an All-Big Eight Conference honoree in 1967, 1968 and 1969. Owens was the Big Eight Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 1968 and ’69.
During his time as a Sooner — in an era when freshmen were not eligible — he set several national records, including rushing yards (4,041) and touchdowns (57).
His 55 carries during OU’s 1969 game against Oklahoma State stood until 1991, when Tony Sands of Kansas had 58 rushing attempts.
Owens was a first-round selection (19th overall) by the Detroit Lions and went on to earn All Pro honors in 1971.
He was the Lions’ first back to gain 1,000 yards (1,035) in a season.
A serious knee injury forced him to retire after six seasons in Detroit.
Owens is a member of the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Orange Bowl Hall of Honor.
He also was honored as a Walter Camp Foundation Alumnus of the Year.
Owens has served on the selection committees of the Doak Walker Award (honoring college football’s top running back) and the Danny Wuerffel Award (called college football’s premier award for community service).
After retiring from football, he launched Steve Owens & Associates and the Steve Owens Insurance Group in Norman.
“A younger generation today doesn’t understand the success story that Steve Owens represents,” Osborn said.
Owens was OU’s athletic director from September 1996 until March 1998 — when he was succeeded by Joe Castiglione.
Owens, his wife, Barbara, and Millie George Gilion were the first two inductees into the Miami Athletics Hall of Fame in March.
He and Barbara — who have been married for more than 50 years — were instrumental in establishing the Miami Public Schools Enrichment Foundation in 1988.
The foundation has raised more than $1.5 million to help teachers and students at his alma mater.
He was honored as the Outstanding Alumnus by the MPSEF in 2004.
Steve Owens also was a founding member of the Norman Public School Foundation.
Barbara Stoner Owens was a cheerleader, Miamiette, basketball queen and honor student and was active in many organizations at MHS.
She is a graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, where she was a Norse Star and cheerleader.
Barbara Owens was honored as NEO’s Alumnus of the Year in 2000.
She has been an advocate for mental health in the state of Oklahoma.
Her efforts have helped raise more than $2 million to build the Thunderbird Clubhouse in Norman, a facility for those suffering from and recovering from mental illness.
Steve Owens credits much of his success to her.
They have two sons, their beloved Blake, and Mike and his wife, Lindsay, and grandchildren, Quincy, Austin, Madden and Campbell.
A website for the drive has been established at www.wardoglegend.com.
A Facebook page — www.facebook.com/wardoglegend/ — also has been set up.
Osborn said several graduating classes at MHS have committed to making a donation.
A donation form is on the website. Donations may be sent to Miami Athletics, 26 North Main, Miami, OK 74354 Memo: Owens Statue.
Forms also are available at the Miami Board of Education office (26 North Main), the Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (111 North Main) and Osborn Drug (11 West Central).
A date for the statue dedication has not been set.