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Get to know rookie Chris Owens
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Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith calls the battle between prospective starting cornerbacks one of the most competitive he's seen at voluntary workouts. In the middle of that battle is rookie Chris Owens, the former San Jose State standout who the Falcons selected in the third round of this year's draft. Last Wednesday, Owens sat down with Times sports reporter Jonathan Zopf to discuss how he got the nickname ‘Flytrap", what he misses most about Los Angeles and how he thinks the Lakers will fare in the NBA Finals.

Q: You grew up in L.A. and weren't recruited by USC or UCLA, did that motivate or hurt you?

A: It didn't hurt me at all. I was fortunate to end up at San Jose State University and I went there straight out of high school and that's my second home. I love those guys.

Q: You went to Dorsey High in Los Angeles, and you and three other guys (Jeremiah Johnson, Jerome Johnson and Jerome Boyd) were all drafted in this year's NFL Draft. How good was your high school team?

A: We were good, we were good. We lost in the semifinal game, we were 13-1. I give a lot of credit to Coach Paul Knox, he's still the head coach out there and my DB coach, Coach Carver. I mean those guys are fantastic and they're still doing great things out there, and I want to give back to my community and that's where I'm going to start.

Q: Is that what you want to do when you're done with football?

A: I want to teach and I want to coach. I don't want to broadcast anymore. I kind of went in another way. I want to give back to my community by teaching and coaching. I think I'd be a great help hands on, as opposed to on the TV.

Q: Would you want to coach back in LA or here on the East Coast?

A: I'd coach anywhere. I'd coach in Georgia, California, anywhere.

Q: You're also a big fan of reading novels, is you're favorite one still Kaffir Boy (by Mark Mathabane)?

A: Yeah, it's an autobiography about apartheid in South Africa. I don't get a lot of time to read because of football, and when you're in college you have school and football. But coming into college I read a little, but my sisters, my mom and my brother forced me ... well not forced me to read, so I read a lot and that was one of the books that caught my attention.

Q: Is it something about that story?

A: Yeah, something about that story opened my eyes and that's why I am an African American history major. You have to read the novel. Apartheid speaks for itself, but reading the novel will really change your perspective of things. Well, it did for me.

Q: I'm sure now you've traded all those novels for the playbook. How much time have you spent reading that, and how hard is it to get adapted to the plays in the NFL?

A: It's really difficult getting adapted to the heavy work load more than anything. It's just like college. If you take it as school work and a job, and take it seriously then you'll succeed and that's what the coaches and all the veterans keep telling me. That's what I'm doing. I go home after practice and I study just like I would in college if I had a chemistry test the next day. Even though I never had a chemistry test, you know what I mean? That type of work ethic that the coaches and veterans have encouraged me to do, and that's what I've been doing.

Q: Has there been a veteran that's sort of put you under his wings?

A: Chris Houston, Chevis Jackson and Erik Coleman. Erik Coleman especially, he's been great.

Q: You have an interesting nickname, what is it and how did you get it?

A: Fly paper, that's my nickname. Because I gotta stick ‘em.

Q: Did you know that the Falcons were going to draft you?

A: I came out here in April for a predraft visit and I really felt comfortable here. There's something about this place, I feel it's just like home. The coaches are great. The GM is great. The owner, president, everybody's perfect and I really felt a sense of comfortability when I came out here. I think it was more of a want than a think. I wanted to come here.

Q: Does it feel any better being a part of a franchise that surprised everyone last year and is now one of the hot teams this year?

A: We are hot, especially seeing what the guys did last year, it was phenomenal. I was watching them on TV and just to be a part of that speaks for itself. But we gotta keep it up, we gotta keep it up. That's what we're doing now and that's what we're going to do in training camp.

Q: So you've been out here for a little while now, what do you miss most about LA?

A: My mom. That's really about it. If I could have my mom out here, I'd feel a lot better. She's coming out here during the season, so I'll be fine.

Q: You don't miss the Lakers?

A: I love the Lakers.

Q: How do you think they'll do in the NBA Finals?

A: Oh, we're gonna win.

Q: How many games?

A: Six. Kobe will finish them off in six and he'll be the Finals MVP. Come on, he's the best player in the NBA.

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