Owens hungry to make early impact at USC

Over the next few weeks, GamecockAnthem will be bringing you a series of in-depth interviews with Carolina's incoming 2011 signees. In the second installment of this can't-miss series, Anthem talks one-on-one with heralded tight end signee Drew Owens, who is hungry to make an immediate impact at a position of need for the Gamecocks this fall. Owens vows to "play his heart out" to help the team.

Interview with 2011 tight end signee Drew Owens:

Scout.com profile: Drew Owens

Question: When did you first start playing football, and when exactly did you realize that you wanted to pursue a future in football?

Owens: I started playing when I was about eight, nine, and ten. I played for junior Pee Wee football, and then I moved out of the country so I wasn't able to play again until my freshman year of high school. I played well my freshman and sophomore year, and then my coach told me I had a chance to play D-I, so I pursued it after that and just worked hard at it. I started lifting more and running more. I started getting better at hand-eye coordination, and the next thing you know I'm going to South Carolina.

Question: Where did you move out of the country to, and what was the reason behind that move?

Owens: I moved first to Germany, and then I moved to Italy after that for two years. My dad is in the military, so his job requires him to move.

Question: How would you describe yourself as a tight end? What all do you bring to the table on the football field?

Owens: I think I bring a balanced attack and a balanced skill-set. I can block, I can catch it down the field, and I can flex out as a receiver. I feel like I'm multi-dimensional, and I can bring a lot of assets to the game that other tight ends can't.

Question: What areas would you like to improve in as a football player?

Owens: I'd say blocking at the next level, when I'll go against safeties and Spur ‘backers and linebackers. I just want to work on my downfield blocking to allow running backs or wide receivers to make big plays down the field.

Question: Is there any player that you tend to model your game after on the football field?

Owens: It's definitely (San Diego Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates. I feel like he has the ability to catch the ball down the field, run every single route in the route tree, and still block down linemen and outsider ‘backers on the outside. When I was younger I played basketball (like Gates). I felt like I was going to play in the NBA, so I pretty much played basketball my whole life until I had the opportunity to play football in high school. I fell in love with football after that, so we have that in common.

Question: I've heard that you take a lot of pride in your training regimen and your overall health. What does a typical day consist of for you in that regard?

Owens: A typical day starts bright and early at 5:30. I like to go for a mile jog in the morning before I go to school. I'll come back and shower, and then after school I'll take a quick nap to get my rest back. Then after that I'll hit my conditioning on the field, running sprints and following my South Carolina workout plan. I go to lift after that. I'm always trying to get better.

Question: Many recruits have said that going through the recruiting process is a once in a lifetime experience. Looking back, what stands out to you about being such a highly recruited prospect?

Owens: It's definitely just the feeling of people wanting you and speaking so highly of you all the time. It gives you a real sense of self worth and lot of self confidence. It really helps you as a player to know your hard work is paying off and people think you're good. It drives you to keep working to get better, so you can prove them right about you.

Question: You ultimately ended up signing with South Carolina, but what were the main schools that you were focused on down the stretch of your recruitment?

Owens: Down the stretch, my top five was Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, NC State, and Virginia Tech.

Question: How close were some of those other schools to possibly swaying you from your decision to attend South Carolina?

Owens: NC State and South Carolina were neck and neck for about three months straight. I went back and forth feeling like I was going to commit to one or the other each day. Then after thinking about it for a while, I just felt like South Carolina was the best fit for me.

Question: What made the difference for you when deciding on South Carolina as your college destination?

Owens: It was the atmosphere of the stadium and the coaching staff that's around the program. The player support there is great, and they have a goal in place for you as a student-athlete. I also want to be the first to do something there, the first team to win a national championship at South Carolina. That's a big goal that we can strive and work for everyday.

Question: Was it difficult for you to turn down offers from the two major in-state schools, UNC and NC State?

Owens: Yes, it was real tough because they were pressuring me real hard. Both of them were recruiting me heavily, so I felt like each time I got a call from them or a message from them I felt obligated to be an in-state hero for those schools. But then I just felt like I needed to spread my wings and go elsewhere.

Question: Even though you live in North Carolina, you're really only an hour and fifteen minutes away from South Carolina's campus. How much did that proximity play into your decision to choose the Gamecocks?

Owens: It was real big, because I have a superstition that I want my mom to be at every single game. I feel like if my mom is there, then I'll play good. The more and more I can see my mom and the more she can see me play, then the better I feel I can be.

Question: Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Jay Graham, who recruited you for the Gamecocks and will be your position coach at USC?

Owens: Ever since I took my first visit down there for summer camp, I felt like me and Coach Graham really connected. He's real easy to talk to and real personable. The more and more I spend time with him, the more I feel like I can feed off of him and learn from him. I want to be a good player for him.

Question: The Gamecocks have produced a string of impressive tight ends in recent years with Jared Cook, Weslye Saunders, and Pat DiMarco. What stood out to you when watching how the Gamecocks utilize the tight end position on offense?

Owens: I feel like I can relate to Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders a lot. I feel like I can do a lot of the same things that they can do, with how they can stretch the field and how they can block down linemen. I feel whatever they can do, I can do at the same level or even better.

Question: The Gamecocks signed two players from North Carolina this year, you and wide receiver K.J. Brent. Are you two pretty close?

Owens: Yeah, actually we always see each other at the gym. We work out at the same place. We work out at different times, but I always see him there. He's a real good player and a good guy. I'm looking forward to rooming with him down at South Carolina (Owens and Brent will also room with Kyle Harris and Mason Harris). We met at a combine in our junior year, and we've kept in contact ever since then. We talk junk because we played them last year, but he's a real good person to talk to.

Question: Who won the game when your Ardrey Kell team played Brent's Marvin Ridge squad?

Owens: They won a close one. On their final drive they scored, and then we had only forty five seconds to drive down the field and score. We got down to the twenty yard line, but they stopped us.

Question: Is it exciting for you to know that you'll be coming into Carolina in the same class as the nation's number one player, Jadeveon Clowney?

Owens: Yeah, it's a real good feeling to know that we have such talent coming in with the same class as me. We have a real good chance of growing and becoming a good team once we mature and become better players.

Question: The Gamecocks only have one proven tight end returning from last season in Justice Cunningham, so what have the South Carolina coaches told you about the possibility of coming in and playing right away?

Owens: They've told me I'll have a great chance. It really depends on me and what I do. They want me to continue to grow, but if I'm good enough they'll throw me in the fire and allow me to prove myself. I feel like I have that opportunity, and I'm going to seize it. I'm going to play my heart out and work hard to get on the field as soon as possible.

Question: The Gamecocks have a good group of tight end signees coming in this year with you, Rory Anderson, and Jerell Adams. Have you gotten to know those guys much yet, and are you looking forward to competing with them?

Owens: I met Jerell Adams on one of my visits. They both seem real good. They're really good athletes, and I'm looking forward to playing with them.

Question: What would you say the potential of the Gamecock offense is this year with so much returning talent, including Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery?

Owens: I feel like once we get Stephen Garcia back on the field playing well, he's already a proven quarterback in the SEC. We already know that Marcus Lattimore and Alshon are proven athletes, so once we have the missing pieces at different positions then we can click real well and go for the SEC Championship this year.

Question: When do you plan to enroll this summer?

Owens: I'm enrolling on May 28th for the first summer session.

Question: What jersey number will you be wearing at USC?

Owens: Number 88. In high school I wore number 87, and I feel like it's always good to grow from what you used to be. I felt like one number up would suffice for that.

Question: What kind of personal goals have you set for yourself in your first year at Carolina?

Owens: My first and foremost goal is not to redshirt. I feel like redshirting isn't a bad thing at all, but it really depends on how you play and how you come out and work, as well as your approach towards the game. I feel like I'm going to attack the game as hard as I can and just allow myself to get on the field as soon as possible. I want to survive freshman year and not get swallowed up in the crowd or get in any type of trouble. I want to stay focused and motivated on my task at hand.

Question: Has anyone told you what to expect with Coach Craig Fitzgerald's strength and conditioning program when you get to Carolina? I‘ve heard those can be pretty intense.

Owens: (Laughs) Yeah, I've talked with a lot of the players, and they say the workouts are out of this world. They're going to get you good and get you right. Everything they do has a meaning and has a purpose.

Question: There's a strong feeling down in South Carolina that the Gamecocks are on the verge of competing for the school's first ever SEC Championship and possibly even a national championship. How exciting is it for you to be joining the USC program now and to have the chance to do something that has never been done before?

Owens: It's crazy, the buzz and the feel, the atmosphere that the fans are giving is amazing. It's just a great feeling to know you have the support of the fans and that they look up to you. It feels good to know they have faith in you, and we're going to do whatever we have to do to win this championship.

Question: Is there a certain game on USC's 2011 schedule that you look at and say, I can't wait to play against those guys?

Owens: Definitely, it's Auburn. There was a kid from Butler, our rival high school, named Kris Frost who committed to Auburn. I feel like me and him always butt heads whenever we play. It's always a big matchup, everybody's always looking forward to the outside linebacker and tight end combo facing off. I feel like he has an opportunity to get early playing time there, and if I do everything I have to do I'll have a chance to play. I want to get my revenge against him.

Question: The Gamecocks are scheduled to play UNC in Columbia in 2013. How much are you looking forward to that game as a North Carolina native?

Owens: Oh, I am so pumped for that game! I know a lot of the players that committed in my class and the class before that who are going up there. They're always talking junk about how I left the state and how I'm a traitor on our state. I feel like that's a big game for me to prove myself to the coaches and everybody that plays there.

Question: How familiar are you with the intensity of the rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson?

Owens: I know it first hand because my head coach who coached me my sophomore and junior year, he played tight end at South Carolina. He was always telling me stories about how there were fights after the game and how the people in the stands go crazy and get so loud. I went to the game last year when (South Carolina) played (Clemson) at home, and that was a crazy game. I know for a fact that every time South Carolina and Clemson play, it's always going to be a great game and it's always going to be crazy.

Question: Do you have any message that you'd like to pass on to Gamecock fans before you officially arrive on campus in a couple of weeks?

Owens: Tell them to get ready for a great season, and let them know that all of the players are ready and I'm ready to get this SEC and national championship. We're going to keep getting better and keep working hard.

Just for fun…

Favorite actress? Angelina Jolie

Favorite musician? Lil Wayne

Favorite food? Steak and potatoes

Hidden talent? I play a mean saxophone

Nickname? D.O.

Favorite pro football team? San Diego Chargers

Favorite overall athlete? Kobe Bryant

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