Flowery Branch, Ga.-- Chris Owens' rookie year came together in his fifth start last season against Buffalo when he came down with an interception - his first in the NFL - against his childhood idol, Terrell Owens.
After being tested repeatedly in four consecutive starts, the cornerback from San Jose State knew his coverage assignment on the 14-year veteran and future Hall of Famer would draw more passes his way. He spent all week leading up to the Week 16 matchup with the Bills preparing and the early-season words of his coach rang loud in his ears.
"I felt they were coming for me," said Owens recently. "I knew I was a rookie cornerback starting. Coach told me the whole year that once I started they're coming after me, so be ready. The whole time at practice I knew they were going to come after me. I mean, it's T.O. I'm a rookie and he's a 14-year veteran. I knew I had to ante up."
In the second quarter on Atlanta's 47-yard line, the Owenses lined up across from each other.
The younger Owens began his backpedal for five yards before turning to run downfield stride for stride with the 36-year-old receiver when he saw Brian Brohm release the ball.
The first thing the 2009 third-round draft pick noticed was the 6'3" receiver was deceptively fast.
"To be honest with you, I didn't know the old guy still had wheels like that," Owens said. "The guy can still run. He's big, he's fast, he's physical, and he can run."
Owens described a Brohm pass that felt a mile high in the sky and in the middle of trying to stay with the receiver and track the pass he gave himself a pep talk. All his years of playing football in the Los Angeles, California area converged on the moment he began to record his first career NFL interception.
"I said to myself, 'It's coming to me, make a play.'"
He began his leap for the ball at the five-yard line and the vacuum of football focus sucked all the sound out of the moment the two players watched the ball's flight.
"When it was up there, everything blanked out," the cornerback said of the Georgia Dome crowd. "It was just me and him there. Everything was quiet."
The burst of sound was nearly deafening as Owens landed in the end zone with the ball in his hands. His football intelligence kicked in when he considered what to do next. Run or take a knee?
Sensing he was in the end zone he kneeled before standing up and pointing to the heavens, holding onto a ball that would eventually find its way to his mother's house.
And how'd that feel?
Describing the moment, Owens took a deep breath and grinned as he recalled the feelings that accompanied his first NFL interception. His tale winding down, he paused for a few long seconds and considered what else to say.
"It felt like I wanted more, if that makes any sense," he said. "I just wanted to get the next one. To be honest, it was like a dream come true."
More would come the following week in the season finale against Tampa when he brought down his second interception, which he returned 13 yards.
An interception wasn't the only thing to come from his coverage of T.O. in Week 16; it earned him a nickname as well.
"The coincidence is my teammates call me C.O. now."
When Terrell Owens began his career in 1996, Atlanta's Owens was 10 years old. C.O. followed T.O. through all his NFL stops: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, and finally Buffalo which brought him through Atlanta to allow the Falcons' young cornerback's ambition to collide with its luminary.
In 53 yards and five seconds Chris Owens realized a dream and set his aspirations and expectations even higher.