Chad Owens Jr. is optimistic even in the face of certain impossibility.
The cancellation of football season has only optimized his motor.
“We still have eight weeks until the season should’ve started,” the Moanalua senior quarterback said. “They pulled the trigger too quickly.”
When the Owens ohana moved home, Chad Jr. embraced the move 100 percent. The son of former Roosevelt, Hawaii and CFL great Chad Owens Sr. was ready for a new chapter. Even as a senior, having to make new friends and learn a new system at Moanalua, Chad Owens Jr. was ready for the challenge.
Six months later, his dream of playing quarterback for Na Menehune is extinguished by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the once-postponed football season.
“We moved back July 17 (of 2020). We lived in Mississauga, kind of close to Toronto,” Owens said on Wednesday. “I miss my friends, but not the weather right now. It’s snowing. It’s cold. There’s a couple of days when it’s negative 40 celsius, which is 0 Fahrenheit.”
Today’s low in Mississauga is 19F.
When word got out over the weekend that the OIA would cancel previously postponed fall sports along with winter sports over the weekend, Owens could not sit still. His father, a Roosevelt graduate who worked his way from walk-on to record-breaker at UH, suggested that he channel the energy.
“The night it got cancelled, my dad said you should say how you feel in public. I looked up the petition (site), and it requires a 1,000-word explanation,” Owens said.
For the introduction to the “Let Hawaii high school sports play” petition (click here to see it), Owens wrote 1,300 words, noting the recent history of Hawaii’s finest student-athletes. The value of teamwork through athletics. He posted it early Tuesday morning, around midnight.
“I put it out there on Twitter and it has 400 signatures now, almost 50 retweets,” Owens said. “I was bummed out, sad just thinking all my preparation for the season doesn’t matter, but after a little time, I felt I have to put the work in. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
In other words, he hasn’t given up. Owens, who has a 3.8 grade-point average and scholarship offers from Linfield and Willamette, is not alone.
“A couple of guys liked it, retweeted it. Some guys DM’d me about it. Campbell guys, Kaimuki, Kaiser, Saint Louis, Kahuku. Tons of guys across the state talked about. A freshman from Mililani. A few parents, too,” he said. “The guys I train with, we talk about it a lot and we all want our opinions to be known. Maybe the people who make these decisions could listen to what we have to say. If the petition gets over 1,000, maybe they’d want to sit down and talk.”
The lack of alternatives, at least in public, has fueled plenty of pushback from sports fans in social media. Whether the issues within the cancellations — litigation, budget cuts, testing — become part of much-needed discourse between student-athletes, their families and the state, Owens wants to take that first step.
“I just want to tell the people who made the decision that people want something to change. Hopefully, something happens, at least we spoke our voices instead of bottling it up,” Owens said.
Chad Owens Sr. wrote on Twitter: “I’m so damn proud of my son, @ChadOwensJr for exemplifying leadership during these hard times for all.”
Moanalua football coach Vince Nihipali fully supports Owens.
“Chad Jr. is showing great leadership traits. His ability to communicate what’s on his mind, voice his opinion, and rally the troops is very impressive. He is a very passionate young man that’s going to be successful in anything he does. I’m extremely proud of him,” Nihipali said.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation and Maui Interscholastic League have followed the OIA’s lead, cancelling fall and winter sports. The private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu also cancelled basketball, bowling, paddling, soccer and wrestling in an announcement the week prior. Coaches within private schools on Oahu have discussed a plan to create a bubble and play exhibition games, utilizing common protocols. There is also discussion on the Big Island about organizing competition at a club level along with the league’s private schools, which voted against cancellation on Tuesday.
Owens has some ideas for alternate plans, too.
“If we weren’t able to have a school season, maybe something in school. Separate into two (football) teams and have something for film,” said Owens, who has the same tone and timbre in his voice as his dad. “We think that it is a serious virus, but there’s a way to work around it safely. If they’re letting tourists in here, they should be able to provide for the actual people who work here and find a way to keep everybody safe.”
He points to the many states on the continent who made it through the fall season.
“I heard Utah did pretty good. They had zero positive cases through their high schools in athletics. It didn’t really spread,” he said.
Through the pandemic, a number of Hawaii student-athletes transferred to schools in Utah, Nevada and Idaho. Owens never considered that possibility.
“I think I would’ve still made a decision to stay here, to play in front of my family. That’s the reason we moved back. I don’t regret the decision to move back,” he said.
Owens won’t stop. Like his father, who was once dubbed Mighty Mouse for his herculean feats on the gridiron, Chad Jr. is seemingly indomitable.
“To all the kids affected by this, just keep working hard. Keep training, keep practicing because you never know,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready at any moment. Keep working hard, keep your chin up and trust in God that he will make all these right decisions for our journey.”
NOTE: The ILH cancelled some sports, but not football. It remains tentatively scheduled for the spring.