Injuries can't keep Owens from the field

The cheerleaders turned away. The parents gasped from the stands. The opposing defense breathed a sigh of relief.

Gerald Owens was walking to the sideline. His helmet lay on the field as he worked his way toward the bench. Rubber pieces of the turf were strewn like polka dots across his forehead. Blood dripped from above Owens’ eye to his mouth.

But there, the blood trickling down his face was met abruptly with a smile. He lives for hits like the one he just took, especially ones that come when there is something meaningful on the line -- like a state championship game. Owens glanced into the nervous stands and gave the thumbs up, the universal sign to focus their worries elsewhere.

The Westville (N.J.) West Deptford star tailback runs with all of his 6-foot-2, 248-pound frame. He relishes contact and wearing his opponents out mentally more than physically. The physical exhaustion comes natural and quickly.

“I think I got to them mentally. They ripped of my helmet and head butted me and split my eye open,” Owens said, his voice heightening as if he is about to take the field again. “They thought I was going to be out. No. Blood was going down my face. I was like ‘Nicole, I’m ready to go.’ ”