Bucs receiver Owusu used to competition

Chris Owusu, catching a pass during practice, was active for five games for the Bucs last season.
Chris Owusu, catching a pass during practice, was active for five games for the Bucs last season.
Published Aug. 5, 2013

TAMPA — Chris Owusu faces a fierce battle to earn a receiver spot with the Bucs.

But the former Stanford star is no stranger to standing out in a crowded competition, especially with his high-achieving siblings at the family's Oxnard, Calif., home.

One brother, Brian, 22, is a defensive back at Harvard. Another, Francis, 18, will be a freshman receiver at Stanford. His sister, Crystal, 20, plays basketball at Columbia, and youngest brother, Michael, 15, is rated among the top-50 ninth-grade football players by

But Chris, 23, the oldest child, set the standard.

"They all look up to him," said their father, Francis, a former Olympic sprinter for Ghana. "He's a great role model."

Owusu has been impressive in training camp. He seemingly makes a great grab or two each practice, including Saturday, when he took some snaps with the first team as Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson sat out.

"He's done a good job of taking advantage of his opportunities," receivers coach John Garrett said. "He's making the expected plays … then making some unexpected plays sometimes; tough, physical catches, getting open against some good guys. He's just playing with confidence."

All Owusu has wanted was a chance, having gone undrafted in 2012 as teams were concerned about the three concussions he suffered during a 13-month span while at Stanford. Owusu, a biology major, said his symptoms were gone quickly and after studying the issue believed it would not get in his way of playing professional football.

Even if Owusu had to take the long way, beginning last season on the Chargers' practice squad after being one of the final training camp cuts by San Francisco then signing with the Bucs in September.

"I always dreamed of getting drafted into the NFL, and when that didn't happen, you've got to look to other things," said Owusu, who was active for five games last season and made his only catch, for 24 yards, against the Saints on Dec. 16.

"It's not where you start, but where you finish. I'm just trying to embrace that motto."

Owusu's parents, Francis (Ghana) and Luaiva (Samoa), taught him the importance of balance from the start. They immigrated to the United States for a better life and wanted their kids to "do something substantial to help the country grow."

Education was one of their core values. So while the kids were all athletic, each playing multiple sports, Francis wouldn't let Chris play until after fourth grade.

"I said if he makes anything less than an A, he was never going to play sports," Francis said. "And he never made anything less than an A."

Chris said the kids pushed — and supported — each other through their whirlwind schedules, having to learn time management.

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"There was definitely a sibling rivalry," Owusu said. "That household was a mess at all times. We were over here. We were over there. But it helped us embrace each other and just come together as a family and get into good schools and balance academics with athletics."

Owusu, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, said he wants to be just like his father, who ran the 400 meters for Ghana in the 1976 Olympics. Owusu has some of his dad's speed, which he showed in beating corner Anthony Gaitor on a 57-yard touchdown during Saturday's practice.

Owusu said he has been helped a lot by veterans such as Jackson and Williams and tried to learn all the receiver positions to become more versatile.

"That guy is awesome; very talented guy, fast," Gaitor said. "And he's a pretty good route runner. He's getting better each and every day competing."

With all of their successful children, Francis said he's told almost every day by someone that he and his wife should write a book. Everyone wants to know their "secret."

Francis says the key is great kids — who listen. As for a book, he said that could eventually happen. They have a story to tell, but it won't be written by him.

"It'll be the kids," Francis said. "They will write it themselves."

And Chris will likely take the lead.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith