After 35 years of service Andy Owens steps away from Nevada Union’s football program
Ever wonder who has the most rushing yards in Nevada Union football history? Or, which Miner grabbed the most interceptions in a season?
Well, Andy Owens knows.
Owens has been on Nevada Union’s sideline for 35 years, diligently scribbling away on his weathered clipboard play after play as the team’s official statistician. In his time with the Nevada Union program, Owens has seen numerous league championships and section titles as well as a 0-10 season and everything in between. But, as the 2015 season nears an end, so does Owens’ time on the sidelines. He has decided to retire from his role with the team after more than three decades of service.
And, while Owens knows that Jefferson Heidelberger is the NU’s all-time leading rusher with 3,409 yards and that Pat Williams is the team’s single-season record holder for interceptions with eight, he has been so much more than the Miners “stat man.”
“I really think (Owens) is one of the great pillars of the program,” said former Nevada Union head coach Dave Humphers. “He has given so much of himself for so many years as the team statistician and team chaplain. He stayed because he cares about the young men in our community.”
Owens first started working with the football program in 1980 under then head coach Marshall Nixon. Owens, a pastor for a local church at the time, kept the game stats and served as the team chaplain.
“When I started I had no earthly idea what I was getting into,” Owens recalled. “When I started I was a pastor of a church and at first people thought I was doing it to proselyte or push my faith on someone else. Having been raised in Oklahoma, I was raised a Sooner fan; and having been involved in high school athletics, I didn’t have a motive. I was just there to be a part of it. I had no idea that would equate to a form of shepherding people’s lives.”
Through the years, Owens venture as team statistician became a family affair, as his son Scott Owens came through the program, playing quarterback for the Miners in the ’80s. Owens’ wife, Mary Owens, also joined the stat crew in 1992 and has been on the sidelines with him ever since.
“Mary is really into numbers and she didn’t know football all that much, but she knows numbers and she didn’t want to be a football widow, so she was like, ‘I want to go to these games,’” Andy Owens said. “She’s been on the sideline with me for 23 years and so we have made it a husband-and-wife thing and we’ve enjoyed it.”
Mary said she started out just pitching in when others were absent, but before she knew it, she was part of the crew.
“Since 1993 that’s what we do every Friday night in the fall, depending on how deep we go into the playoffs,” Mary Owens said. “Some years are more fun than others and that doesn’t have to do with wins and losses, that has to do with the snow, rain and 40 mph winds.”
Andy and Mary have been on the sidelines so long they have also had the opportunity to see their grandchildren come through the program as Trevor Moore, who graduated in 2013, played right guard for the Miners and Tristan Moore, a senior at NU, helps out with the stat crew.
Lean on him
Andy’s presence has also been felt by the program off the field. He has been there to officiate the weddings of former players and coaches, including Humphers. He’s also been there to help the team through the tragedies that have occurred through the years.
“Anytime people needed help and support, Andy was there for them,” said Humphers. “The times when we’ve had tragedies he’s always been there to help and lend his support. All that love he gives comes straight from the heart and he has made a difference in many, many lives.”
Andy said he treasures the time he has spent with the team both as a statistician and as the team’s chaplain.
“When we would gather for the team prayer, I would tell the team to put a hand on someone else’s shoulder pad and create that brotherhood of unity and one boy would reach out and put his hand in my hand to complete the link,” Andy said. “I actually had guys come up to ask where I would be at, so they could be the one to grab my hand. They would say ‘Where you going to be? … I want to pray under you.’ That was pretty special.”
The stat crew
When Andy first started taking down stats for NU it was a one-man show. That one man show has become a well-oiled operation with several volunteers keeping a plethora of stats on multiple clipboards.
Once it became obvious Andy couldn’t keep all the stats on his own, Pete Christensen, Dan Miller and Jim Tucker were added to the mix. Miller and Tucker have moved on, but Christensen, who is also stepping away from the NU stat crew after this season, has been working with Andy for 28 years.
“Andy’s a great guy and pretty much a perfectionist,” Christensen said. “We’ve gone through some highs and lows with the program, gone to section championships and got to see some kids that would eventually go play in the NFL. It’s been a great ride.”
Andy noted that he and Christensen have great chemistry in their efforts on the field and are friends off the field.
“Pete’s phenomenal,” Andy said. “He’s great with math in his head. It’s just instinct, watching Pete collect the data, relaying to me and I record it.”
For Andy, who has done stats for head coaches Marshall, Randy Blankenship, Humphers and Dennis Houlihan, it wasn’t until Humphers took over that the stat crew added a third clipboard for time of possession and field position stats. That board was in addition to the offensive and defensive boards already in play. Mary runs the time-of-possession board. Others who help on the current stat crew are Jerry Westfall, Eric Giles, Annie Hughes, Kyle Klauer and Orville Boger.
“I just don’t think people realize how much time and dedication it takes,” Mary said. “Andy always made sure there was enough people there and that the stats got loaded into MaxPreps early Saturday morning. It’s a testament to this community that we can keep that many people going and giving that much time. We have a great community. We are so blessed.”
According to Andy
Very few people have seen as many Nevada Union football games as Andy Owens; and very few are as intimately knowledgeable about the stats from those games.
Andy recalled some of the players that stood out most in his time on the sidelines.
“The very first one that comes to mind was A.J. Kunkle,” Andy said. “He was a running back in the early ’90s and he went on to play for the Air Force Academy and later transferred to Cal; but from freshman year, you just knew he was the man.”
Owens also admired the abilities of Isaac Ostrom, Matt Massari and several of the offensive linemen who have gone on to play in college and professionally.
“Nevada Union has had a lot of Division I football players,” Andy said. “In the weight room, they have a circle of names of all the players that have gone on and I look at that and go, ‘Wow, what a ride I’ve been on. I got to see everyone of these kids start as freshmen.’”
As far as the best quarterback NU has ever had? It’s his son Scott Owens. And, the best right guard NU ever had was his grandson Trevor Moore of course, according to Andy.
“Scott’s football career went by so fast, so when Trevor got into the program I was wise enough to know that this was to be savored and every moment was to be enjoyed,” said Andy. “I went to every practice and every game.”
The end is near
This isn’t the first time Andy has tried to walk away from NU football, but the program kept pulling him back in.
“There were other times I was going to step down, but there was always somebody coming up I wanted to see play,” he said. “I was going to leave when Dave left, but having known Dennis (Houlihan), I wanted to support him so I decided I would stay an extra couple years.”
Andy’s efforts and dedication over the years are not lost on the coaches, players and families he has supported.
“Statistician is just a small part of what Andy has done for the program,” Humphers said. “He is one of the people that make this community a special place to live. I am in awe of how much he goes out of his way to help others.”
Even though he will no longer be the team’s statistician, Andy Owens said he will always back the Miners.
“I’ll still support the football program,” he said. “Dennis also said I have an open invitation to be on the sidelines.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Nevada Union Junior Miners Football and Cheer teams traveled on Saturday to Casa Roble High School in Orangevale to play the Casa Roble Junior Rams in Sacramento Youth Football League action.