Lying in his bed about a month before his senior football season at Glenelg, running back Wande Owens almost couldn’t believe the college process was all but over. The stress of choosing between Princeton, Yale, Lafayette, Lehigh and the University of Chicago was gone. He verbally committed to Yale via Twitter on July 28.
Sure, he still must send in his application to the Connecticut Ivy League school, but he no longer has to worry about what his athletic and academic future holds. He can instead set his sights on helping a Glenelg program in search of its third straight region title.
“I really like the environment the [Yale] coaches provided,” Owens said. “They and the players that were there, they made me feel wanted there. I’m going to play [defensive back] there. I just love the school. It’s a place I can go even if football doesn’t work out. So, that’s mainly the reason that I chose Yale.”
Owens, who was mainly recruited by co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Jordan Stevens, attended two prospect camps at Yale before visiting the campus a third time. Owens said that was the visit that “really swayed” him towards joining the Bulldogs. He had 1-on-1 conversations with the defensive backs coach and the strength and conditioning coach and met with head coach Tony Reno in his office.
“They really wanted me there,” said Owens, who is leaning towards studying statistics and data science. “So, making me feel wanted really drove me to choose Yale.”
Having coached Owens’ three older brothers, Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer has known Owens for at least a decade and said he’s always possessed the talent and ability to play collegiately. Schaffer watched Owens develop through the youth ranks, then began coaching him shortly after he arrived at Glenelg. In the 3A East regional championship game in 2015, Schaffer turned to Owens, then a freshman, to replace injured senior running back Trey Davis.
As a sophomore, Owens became the full-time starter and broke the county’s single-season rushing record Davis had set the year before. In addition to gaining 2,504 yards — good for an average of 192.6 per game — Owens led the county with 28 touchdowns and powered the Gladiators to a regional championship. His efforts made him a fitting choice for 2016 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Offensive Player of the Year.
A foot injury robbed Owens of four games last season, but once healthy, he became a major contributor during the Gladiators’ 2A South region title run. He amassed 941 rushing yards on 181 carries and found the end zone 10 times a year ago en route to earning first-team All-County honors.
“It’s the perfect combination of getting the total package with [Owens] being super athletic and academically advanced,” Schaffer said. “And Yale offers him everything that going to meet his needs, so that’s why it’s the best match.”
Glenelg football coach Butch Schaffer discusses his top returning players, team expectations and more on Day 1 of the fall sports season on Aug. 8, 2018. (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG)
As for this season, Owens is excited for more carries, rushing yards and touchdowns, in addition to showcasing his defensive aptitude. He played defensive back his freshman year, but since then, the coaches chose to only use him on offense in an attempt to keep him as fresh and possible.
However, the coaches at Yale envision Owens as a defensive back, so that will change this fall.
To prepare, Owens spent this summer improving his conditioning and sharpening his footwork. He also focused on strengthening his hips and core. Owens has thought about how his new role will impact his rushing production, but he and his coaches anticipate he’ll able to able to play both ways at a high level.
Schaffer did not specify whether or not Owens would start on defense but added that “he’ll probably come off the field very little.”
“I don’t see that it’s going to affect us that much,” Schaffer said. “We might give him a blow here and there, but we’ve done that the whole time anyway, so I don’t think we’re really going to transition that much.
“We want to give him a little bit of an opportunity to work on what he’s going to be doing down the road, so we’re going to allow him to do it. We’re the only ones that have been restricting him. He’s always wanted to play defense, and we haven’t let him, so I think he’s pretty happy with the situation.”
“I’m really excited, and I think our whole team is really excited, too, because this year, we have a lot of potential,” Owens said. “I’ve been waiting for this since the end of May when the track season ended, so training up until this moment, it feels really good to be in the season. We’re excited to get after it.”