AU trailblazer who integrated southern college football focus of - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

AU trailblazer who integrated southern college football focus of new documentary

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - James Owens is known as the first African American to break through the college football racial barriers in the Deep South. 

"When you think back it was enjoyable. I enjoyed the experience and I enjoyed the players. I just enjoyed Auburn," says Owens.

Monday, Nov. 10, his journey premiered in Auburn in front of hundreds as the documentary Quiet Courage.

"I am humbled and I am thankful. It has been a journey, but the lord keeps looking down and smiling on me," explains Owens.

A fullback from Fairfield, Alabama, Owens was recruited by more than 60 universities. He enrolled at AU in 1969 and the film chronicles his time there beginning with his recruitment, his success on the field and the challenges he faced on campus. 

"I always like to tell people he was Bo Jackson before there was a Bo Jackson. What I mean is, he is the forerunner to Bo Jackson. He made Bo Jackson and many, many others possible," says Thom Gossom Jr. of Best Gurl, Inc. 

Gossom wrote and co-produced the film and is Owens' former teammate and roommate.

"I think it's a message of perseverance, a message of looking beyond yourself. As James said it took somebody who is not caught up in themselves to be able to be the first African American, not only at Auburn, but in the Deep South," explains Gossom.

"It was scary, lonely, not really knowing what to expect because I was entering into something that was completely new for me," says Owens.

Gossom's Quiet Courage was a two year project. 

Featured in the film are Owens' former teammates and coaches including Terry Henley, Mitzi Jackson and Jim Hyler.

"I always call it a 45 year love affair between and man and his university," says Gossom.

Quiet Courage will air over the Thanksgiving Holiday on Alabama Public Television.

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