(Reuters) – Terrell Owens, one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, has agreed to come out of retirement and will return to professional football with startup league Fan Controlled Football, a source told Reuters on Thursday.
The 48-year-old Owens, whose NFL career ended in 2010, is in great shape and wants to show he can still play at a high level, according to the source who said an official announcement is expected next week.
Owens, whose talent and athleticism on the gridiron were undeniable, became famous for his entertaining touchdown celebrations during a 15-year NFL career that earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The charismatic Owens is by far the most high-profile player to join Fan Controlled Football, a league that includes former college standout Johnny Manziel, whose much-hyped NFL career fizzled after two seasons.
According to the source, Owens will likely join the Zappers team alongside Manziel, who recently announced his return to Fan Controlled Football for the second season.
The source said Owens will be mic’d up and wearing a helmet camera for games. He will also provide content for streaming provider fuboTV by interviewing team owners and players during games when he is not playing.
The league, which this year is doubling in size to eight teams for its second season, is a condensed 7-on-7 style of American football played on a 50-yard indoor field and acts as a real-life video game that allows fans to call the plays.
The seven-week regular season, which will be followed by playoffs, kicks off on April 16 and all games will be played at a single Atlanta facility.
This is not the first comeback for Owens, who in 2012 joined a Texas-based Indoor Football League team as a co-owner and star player. He was released after eight games and his ownership stake was terminated for violating his contract.
Owens’ reputation as an on-field entertainer began in 2000 when, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he celebrated a touchdown by running to midfield and standing on the Dallas Cowboys’ blue star logo while looking skyward with outstretched arms. Dallas fans were not amused, though they embraced him when he became one of their own six years later.
The flamboyant wide receiver found many creative ways to celebrate touchdowns, whether pulling a Sharpie hidden in his sock to sign a game ball, dancing with cheerleaders or pouring a spectator’s bucket of popcorn onto his helmeted face.
Aside from his end zone antics, Owens proved to be a prolific receiver with great hands and a knack for making big plays during a career in which he played for five different teams from 1996-2010.
At the time of his retirement from the NFL, Owens’ 15,934 receiving yards ranked second on the league’s all-time list while his 153 touchdown receptions was third most.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)