Today’s post celebrates the Happy Birthday of a Michigan Man named Mel T. Owens. Mel Tyrae Owens was born on this day in Detroit, Michigan in 1958. Mel’s family moved to Illinois, but his heart stayed close to Michigan. Mel Owens grew up to be an outstanding athlete in Dekalb, Illinois. He was an All-Stater in football. He also played basketball and baseball at Dekalb High School.
When it came time to decide where to play college football, Mel Owens chose Michigan. Bo Schembechler was always looking for good linebackers and he figured that young Owens could be a good one. Once again, Bo would be right!
Mel T. Owens enrolled at Michigan in 1976. He spent his freshman year learning Bo’s system and getting up to speed on his academics. Owens did not letter that first year, but he got the attention of his coaches. Mel started one game as a sophomore and played enough to earn a letter. He started the first two games of the 1978 season before pinching a nerve in the Notre Dame game. He was sidelined for the rest of the season.
Future Michigan Man Mel Owens worked hard to overcome his injury and came back strong in 1979. He started all twelve games and recorded 43 solo tackles and assisted on 30 more. He also had two tackles for loss that totaled thirteen yards. He earned second team All-Big Ten honors for the 1979 season which just happened to be the one-hundredth season of Michigan football. The 1979 Michigan football team finished with a record of 8 wins, 4 losses and 0 ties. They went 6-3-0 in the conference and finished in third place.
The 1980 season was a much better year for Michigan and for Mel T. Owens. Team # 101 finished the season with a record of 10 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines posted a perfect conference record (8-0-0) and won their third Big Ten Title in four years. Mel Owens also had an excellent season in 1980. He recorded 52 solo tackles and assisted on 37 more. He also earned first team All-Big Ten honors for his outstanding season. More importantly, Owens and his teammates gave Bo something very special −his first bowl win. After starting the season with only one win in the first three games, the Wolverines caught fire! Michigan won nine straight games (including the Rose Bowl−23-6 over Washington) and became the first Michigan team to win a bowl game since 1965!
Here are some “firsts” that connect Mel Owens and Michigan Football:
- Mel Owens played in the first game where Michigan players had their names on the back of their jerseys in the 1979 Gator Bowl. (Michigan lost 15-18 to North Carolina.)
- Owens played in the first ever game against South Carolina in 1980 which Michigan lost 14-17 -ugh!
- Mel Owens played on the team that gave Bo Schembechler his first bowl win (23-6) in the 1981 Rose Bowl.
- Owens played on the 1980 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverine Football team which allowed the Wolverine Football program to become the first, and only, Big Ten team to win at least one conference title in all ten decades of Big Ten Football!
So, the young Michigander who grew up in Illinois came home to play for Michigan. Mel T. Owens had an excellent career in Ann Arbor. Michigan football was on a roll in the late seventies and into the eighties and Mel Owens was right in the middle of it all. He earned three varsity letters and some well-deserved recognition for his solid play. He went on to an excellent career in the National Football League.
Thank you Mel Owens for your contributions to the great history of Michigan Football. You, and your teammates, added thirty-eight wins to Michigan’s all-time victory total along with three Big Ten Championships. Congratulations on your memorable Michigan career. Happy Birthday and Go Blue!
For more information about the life and times of Mel T. Owens, click the links below.