Lambeau Field. Vince Lombardi. Bart Starr.
The organization identified with those icons now has a link to a less famous name, although one that is known to Riverheaders: Mike Owen.
Owen, the former football player for Riverhead High School and Syracuse University, has said his playing days are over. But that doesn’t mean his connection to football has come to an end. Owen, 25, is a combine scout for the Green Bay Packers. Among the responsibilities of his new job is the scouting of college players in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
So, how does a young man go about becoming a scout for one of the National Football League’s most historic franchises?
“It was pretty much all connections, calling up old coaches and operations guys,” Owen said. “One thing led to another and I went into an interview with the Green Bay Packers.”
Owen was hired by the Packers in May. He said he was thrilled the day he received the news during a phone call from the Packers’ director of football operations, John Dorsey. Owen said he was so emotional “that I was actually shaking.”
As a player, Owen was a standout for Riverhead before going to college. He arrived at Syracuse as a linebacker before being moved to defensive end. For the last three years with the Orange, though, he was a tight end. He made 39 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns over the course of his college career.
As an undrafted free agent, Owen took part in five practices in the New York Jets’ rookie minicamp two years ago. That marked the end of his playing days, something he said he has come to terms with.
“I had a lot of good times, a lot of memories,” he said.
Owen had spent the past two years as an assistant coach for Riverhead, working with the H-backs, tight ends and linebackers. He said he was looking forward to serving under Leif Shay, the coach he had played for, yet again this fall when the opportunity to work for the Packers presented itself. That partially grew out of a meeting Owen had with his former high school guidance counselor, Suzanne Maurino, and Shay near the end of the 2011 football season regarding Owen’s future. It was suggested at that meeting, Owen said, that perhaps it would be best for him if he explored options outside of this area.
Toward the end of August, Owen will move to Arlington, Texas. In fact, he said he will be living right across the street from Cowboys Stadium, which is interesting. As a youngster, Owen rooted for the Cowboys — his favorite team — and Emmitt Smith. At the same time, though, he said Green Bay was a team that he idolized, and Brett Favre was his favorite quarterback.
“When I played ‘Madden,’ [the video game] it was either the Green Bay Packers or the Dallas Cowboys,” said Owen.
Now Owen has real-life ties to the Packers. He has been to Lambeau Field three times and been impressed. “You can feel the history walking in,” he said.
As with any other scout, Owen is trying to find a diamond in the rough, the talented player who has escaped the notice of others. It’s not easy. “I feel like I got a good eye, but most of the time you’re going to be wrong in scouting,” he said. “I’m trying to learn and absorb as much as I can.”
Owen will be going to college games and practices, and watching film. He will also be doing a lot of travelling, covering some areas that are considered football hotbeds. “I’ll be going all over the place, but I’ll always be looking for Riverhead’s box score to see how they do,” he said.
Ultimately, Owen said, he would like to become an NFL general manager one day.
The NFL already has one assistant general manager and executive vice president of football operations who attended Riverhead High School — Ed McGuire of the San Diego Chargers.
“I’m happy, but I still have a lot of unfinished business in my life to get where I want to be,” Owen said. “It’s a story that continues to be written.”