I am a sports magazine junkie. From Sports Illustrated For Kids when I was young to just plain Sports Illustrated now, there has not been a phase of my life where I have not perused the sports magazine world. Here at Bison Illustrated, we take particular interest in ESPN The Magazine. Not only does the editorial content stand out, but our designers and photographers take influence from those elements as well. It is the one national magazine we most closely associate ourselves with.
I knew I wanted Easton Stick on the cover of this month’s magazine. It is our annual football preview and it would only be right that we get NDSU’s quarterback and potential NFL draft pick on the cover. Believe it or not, Stick has never been on the cover of Bison Illustrated, which made the decision easier as well. The figure on the cover was never in question, but we had lengthy conversations on what we would do with Easton on the cover. To give you the backstory, I thought of one of my favorite ESPN The Magazine covers.
It featured Terrell Owens, one of the more eccentric football figures of the last 25 years. He had his shirt removed, a stoic face and a football in hand. Over top was a quote said by Owens. The statement and subsequent cover stemmed from one of Owens’ most iconic moments. While playing for the San Francisco 49ers in 2002, Owens reeled in a 37-yard touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks. To celebrate his touchdown, Owens pulled out a sharpie he had stowed away in his sock, signed the football and gave it to his financial advisor Greg Eastman.
The irony comes with the fact that Eastman was also the financial advisor to Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs, who was defending Owens on the play. Eastman had been sitting in Springs’ luxury suite that night and was on the receiving end of Owens’ celebratory signature. It has since been regarded as “The Sharpie Incident.”
Now, you are probably wondering why the hell I’m bringing this up and how it relates to Easton Stick being on our cover. Mainly, it was about the pose (minus a shirtless and detached Easton), but I later realized something that brings this cover shot full circle.
Easton Stick and Terrell Owens are not that different from each other.
Now, you may be thinking I’ve absolutely lost my mind given the reputation Owens has and the reputation Stick has. They are two different personalities in the eyes of the public. However, their similarities on the field cannot be denied.
Owens attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (Chattanooga for short), an FCS school, like Stick. While he played both basketball and football for the Mocs, Owens was born for football. In four years at Chattanooga, Owens caught 144 balls for 2,320 yards and 19 touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive, but Owens is not the program’s leader in any of those categories. However, he did play in the Senior Bowl, which Stick is sure to do as well. Owens was a third-round draft pick to the 49ers in 1996.
Think about Easton Stick’s numbers through three seasons. He has thrown for 5,941 yards, rushed for 1,846 more, has a 61 percent completion percentage and has 84 total touchdowns in his career. None of those numbers are good enough for the best in North Dakota State history. Stick has also only been named an Honorable Mention on the All-Missouri Valley team. He continually gets put on the preseason second or third team because other quarterbacks have better “numbers” than him.
Easton Stick is a first-team quarterback.
To deny the above statement is completely asinine. He accounted for 40 touchdowns in 2017 and his record as a starter is 34-3 with two FCS National Championships. No other quarterback in the country can say that, but yet he falls by the wayside in awards voting (he doesn’t care about awards, I know). Anyway, I digress.
My point is that both Owens and Stick were (and are) overlooked as collegiate football players. What happened in Owens’ case? He only played 15 seasons in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl six times and posting some astounding career statistics. He is second all-time in receiving yards (15,934), eighth in receptions (1,078) and third in receiving touchdowns (153). Say what you will about him personally, but Terrell Owens is a legend.
Will the same thing happen to Stick when he plays in the NFL (which he will have the opportunity to do)? Given the body of work we have, it’s hard to deny how successful he can be. No, we will not see Easton Stick doing sit-ups in his driveway nor will we see him grab a fan’s popcorn and dump it all over himself after a touchdown. He is and never will be an antics guy, but he is and always will be a results guy, just like Owens was on the field. So, maybe Easton Stick and Terrell Owens are not so different after all. Only time will tell if that comparison holds true.
And by the way, Owens was just inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use that fact at your own discretion.