Susan Owens: Wife of deceased NFL player R.C. Owens

Feb 12, 2014

From Susan Owens:



My husband R. C. Owens died of complications associated with AD.  We were married for 25 years.  During the course of those years he suffered through 3 back operations, bolts put into the top of his spine to hold his head in place, knee surgery and along with the deteriorating  back disease the bottom of his spine looked like smashed up spaghetti on the ultrasound image.  Not related to football he was on dialysis for 9 years and eventually a kidney transplant, he also had diabetes, prostate cancer and other stomach problems.  Nine years prior to his death he had Alzheimer’s disease.  In our 25 years of marriage we managed to get through the physical problems with prayer and even at times laughter.  However, A.D. was the most cruel and devastating crush to our entire beings.  He was always known for his sweet, easy going, loving disposition and to watch this person you love turn into a stranger that yelled, swore and appear like he hated me was a hurt that I can not even describe for me and for him.  Anyway, we also applied for disability 3 times (one time with an attorney) and were denied each time.  It is so hard to hear “the fans” state things like, “well that’s what these guys were paid the big bucks for”.  My husband’s pension is $800 a month.  Yes he knew that he could have long standing injuries well after he left the game, but I guarantee,  if someone told him there is a great possibility, from playing football, you will lose your mind and die, he would not.



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22 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. henrietta watson
    February 12th, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    My deepest sympathy. Sincerely Henrietta Watson

  2. George Visger
    February 12th, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    So sorry to hear of your loss. I was with the 49ers in the early 80’s while RC was there. He was always up, and a joy to be around. I can only imagine your pain.
    God Bless You both

  3. Lou Piccone
    February 13th, 2014 at 3:56 am #

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You and your family have our deepest sympathies. It is very difficult to face the facts when your young, that the very thing that you love to do can cause so much pain and suffering to the player and his loved ones and when your done or should I say “when their done with you”, that TEAM SPORT becomes solitary confinement and the Pain is yours and your families! Our prayers are with you!
    Lou and JoAnne Piccone
    Bills 77-83
    Jets 74-76

  4. Judith Gaines
    February 13th, 2014 at 4:09 am #

    My deepest condolences to the Owens’ family. The mental and emotional damage is devastating. I understand; and I am truly sorry for your loss.

  5. Tom Beer
    February 13th, 2014 at 5:30 am #


    So sad to read about RC Owens debilitating state before he passed away. He was a great wide receiver who helped revolutionize the game back in the late 50’s with his “Alley Oop” receptions in the end zone. As a boy growing up in Detroit, I used to watch the Lions play the 49ers and marveled at San Fran’s potent offense. YA Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe “Jet” Perry, Billy Wilson and RC Owens. RC may be gone, but he will be remembered forever./

  6. Ken Burrow
    February 13th, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    Growing up in the SF Bay Area the 49ers was my team and R.C. Owens was the Man and a person I wanted to play like. I always considered him one of the top receivers in the game and certainly could never count them out when he was in. I’m so so sorry to hear about what you two and others had to deal with all those years, VERY SAD ….Thank You for sharing !!!

    Ken Burrow
    Atlanta Falcons 71-75 (WR )

  7. Steve Thurlow
    February 13th, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    So sorry to hear of RC’s death and all of the pain and suffering the 2 of you endured the past 9 years—Your characterization of him before his illness was right on—Being with RC during his time with the NY Giants and then after football in San Francisco was always a joyous occasion—His smile was infectious—Wishing you the very best

  8. Judie Stowe
    February 13th, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    There is so much and pain and suffering on so many levels, former and current players, their wives, their children, their families. It is difficult to watch the suffering our loved ones experience in their lifetime following their career in the NFL. Your husband was blessed to have such a caring and loving woman who stood along side him, no matter what. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Please know that you are not alone.

  9. Ruth Costa
    February 13th, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    I was inspired by Susan’s post to say that my husband, Dave Costa passed away last May from leukemia. He donated his brain and spinal cord to Boston University to analyze for CTE. After several interviews and the physical analysis, I will get the results on 2/21. As a defensive tackle for 13 years, he certainly was a candidate for CTE. We also lived through very tough times with unexplained anger, rages, memory loss etc. I will keep you posted when I get the results.
    Best to you all,
    Ruth Costa

  10. Larry Kaminski
    February 13th, 2014 at 10:11 am #


    You have my sincere condolences. As long as we have players like Drew Brees and Deion Sanders spouting about the old timers lifestyles, we will not make progress in the press. Not one person in the modern day has a clue on what RC experienced on the field both games and practice.

    The press is in the Commish’s pocket so no help in that arena.

    God Bless you and May RC RIP

    Larry Kaminski

  11. Janet McCoy
    February 13th, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    My heart goes out to you and your family.

  12. Dan Sullivan
    February 13th, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    I played with R.C. in 1962 when he came to the Baltimore Colts. He was a good player and a great teammate that fit in well with the team. It is a shame that he has developed all these aliments over the years. This is a classic case of one of our guys needing help and not able to get the support of the league. When is this insanity going to get resolved.

  13. Scotty Scott
    February 13th, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    No one but someone who has experienced your pain can imagine the depth of it. I played Pro Football for only 4 years and was one of the fans who appreciated seeing the Great R. C. Owens Play. I left the game with a fused right ankle and a right shoulder that eventually required replacement. None of this is comparable to the suffering and pain the game brought to you and R. C.

    I wish for you all of the strength and guidance our Good Lord can send your way.

  14. Tom Baugh
    February 13th, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    My heart goes out to you Susan. I have this awful feeling in my stomach that my family might have to live with me under the same kind of circumstances. There is nothing I can do to prepare them for what might be that eventuality. I can’t image the pain that you have suffered due to the disease. You know that your husband loved you.. it was the disease that was talking. And the pain of knowing that there is no recourse or compensation in the world that could change it back. Be at peace.

  15. Troy Johnson
    February 14th, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    $800.00 a month from a league that make billions of dollars. Isn’t something wrong with that picture. God Bless you and your family!

  16. Gary jackson
    February 14th, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Ally oop was a very good friend one summer a very long time ago. He and I worked side by side forking cans at the Libby pea cannery in Walla Walla, Washington in 1957. we played basketball at the YMCA where he bunked for the summer and talked endlessly about everything. Maybe his fans didn’t know that R.C. Had three pro options after college – football, basketball and pro boxing. Not only was he one of football’s greats, he was a wonderful person who dreamed as big as he was that summer so long ago.

  17. Annette Lawson
    February 14th, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    My prayers goes out to you and your family. My hudsand played for the NFL also . He been decease 6 years today . happy Valentine Day . And thanks for speaking out for the widows. God Bless ! Annette Lawson – wife of Odell Lawson

  18. Joe Rinaldi
    February 14th, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    This situation clearly illustrates the lack of concern for the casualties in the NFL. Just today I heard a local sports radio celebrity boastfully announce how the NFL made over ten billion dollars this past season. NFL retirement Allocations should be commiserate with the scale of annual revenue intake. COLA increases to the family of RC Owens and many of others like him should be taken into consideration. Sure the raw reality is players are meat on the hoof. Once the meat cannot meet demand the players become dispensable. Their needs do not and to treat players like this is deplorable.

  19. SharoStewart Stewart
    February 15th, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss and my prayers go out to you and your family. It is so upsetting to hear that he was turned down for disability time and time again. It is shameful that these programs are in place but they continually deny these men. Having fought our own fight against the disability board I understand the frustration. I’m sure that if they would have approved RC it would have provided some relief to you and him. I’m just so sorry for your loss and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Sharon Stewart – wife of Andrew Stewart

  20. Gene Mingo
    February 16th, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Dave I only read a little bit about what R.C. Owens went through / Yes the AFL / NFL wouldn’t be what it is today if it hadn’t been for us early players that did not have the Doctors to look after us / Or knew the extant of our injuries – But we still played. Just look at what the Commissioner is being paid for PROTECTING the owners. And we can’t even get part of our medical expense from the NFL. I know what O.C went through because I’m starting to have some of those same problems. The NFL didn’t want us to know how bad our concussions were. I understand that back in the 60’s and maybe the 70’s the game was covert up – But why can’t they help some of us OLD guys? They have Billions put away.

    Gene M. #21

  21. Phil Villapiano
    February 17th, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi Susan,
    It kills me to hear your sorry , such a great man , I will remember RC as the great man that he was. I met him when I was a rookie in 71 and he was the man in the bay area, i loved the way he smiled and was full of life, I tried to copy him to this day.
    May God bless you .

    Phil Villapiano, Raiders

  22. Eddie Meador
    March 5th, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Susan, I am sorry to hear of your loss in R.C.’s passing. We played football together for the Los Angeles Rams.
    R.C. was such a fine person & great friend to me. I know he will be greatly missed.
    Ed Meador