James Owens, Auburn’s first African-American scholarship football player, died Saturday at the age of 65, his family confirmed to AL.com’s Brandon Marcello.
Owens played for Auburn from 1969-72 and played his first game as a sophomore. He was dealing with heart issues as well as back problems, according Marcello. The fullback rushed for 225 yards, tallied 119 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns during his career. But Owens’ legacy at Auburn extends far beyond the stat sheet.
“Through this entire battle with this heart condition over the years he never showed an ounce of fear,” Owens’ nephew and former Auburn defensive lineman LaDarius Owens told AL.com. “No matter how much pain he was in or how he felt you would never know because he didn’t allow it.”
Owens remains a role model for African American athletes and will be remembered as a trailblazer for integration in the SEC and across all college athletics.