A few years back, no one knew what to call Chapman football head coach Bob Owens and his brother, quarterbacks coach Michael Owens. When a player or coach yelled “Coach Owens” to ask a question, both Bob and Michael would turn their heads.
Then, a solution surfaced: Bob would be called 1.0 and Michael would be 2.0. Bob, who is 16 years Michael’s senior, now goes by Coach O and Michael remains 2.0 (in case anyone forgets, Michael wears a maroon cap with “2.0” across the front and a Panther claw on the side).
The two share a common goal: to positively impact the lives of young men through football.
“I think anyone that has opportunity to coach, you’re very blessed to interact with young people on a daily basis,” said Bob, who was named conference coach of the year in 2014 after guiding Chapman to its first-ever Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
“And if you do the right thing, and if you really care and are there for the right reasons, you can have a huge impact in their lives,” he said.
Born in Louisiana, Bob and his family moved to Duarte his sophomore year of high school. Soon thereafter, Michael was born. When Michael was 6, their father died. The death was difficult for both brothers, but Bob filled the void as best as he could.
“He was my father figure, my older-brother father figure,” Michael said. “He was always there for me.”
The pair have always participated in sports together, with Bob often serving as Michael’s coach. Michael first played in an organized sports league for 10-year-olds in Duarte. He was 8, but Bob let him play on his team anyway.
“He always played up because he’s been such a good athlete,” Bob said.
The pair thrived on the field because they learned their work ethic off of it. Their mother, who cleaned houses for a living, instilled a sense of accountability. In the Owens household, you took care of business. You didn’t make excuses. You took education and chores seriously. You followed rules.
If you tried out for a sports program, you weren’t allowed to quit midway through. When you woke up in the morning, you cleaned your room before leaving the house. When you returned home from school, you completed your homework. There was no reward at the end of any of these activities. But you didn’t do it for that reason – you did it because it was expected of you.
“Discipline was just part of the fiber of our family,” Bob said. “There was no entitlement.”
Echoed Michael: “You just did things right,” Michael said. “That crossed over into your athletic life. If you wanted to be good, you had to do certain things to be good.”
Bob taught his younger brother how to be more than good on the football field, as he had been a standout athlete himself. Bob played football, baseball and basketball and ran track at Duarte High School before playing two years of football at Mt. San Antonio College and two years at the University of La Verne (he graduated in 1970).
“But Michael is the best athlete in our family,” Bob said. “He was just dynamic.”
“But I had the best coach,” Michael said of his older brother. “I had the advantage of having a coach who understood the game. I hung out with him and his buddies and really learned from them.”
Michael starred at quarterback for Van Nuys High School (Bob served as a coach at the school at the time). Michael was selected player of the year in his division in 1980 after leading Van Nuys to a share of the City Section 3-A title. That year he passed for over 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 13 touchdowns.
Michael played three seasons (one redshirt year due to injuries) at the University of Oregon and two seasons at Whittier College (he graduated in 1986).
Meanwhile, Bob built a prolific coaching resume that now spans over 30 years. He has coached at Humboldt State, Fresno State, Utah State and Oregon. He also served as the wide receivers coach for Nevada on its Big West championship team in 1995 and helped lead the Sacramento Surge to a World League title as its running backs coach in 1992.
Bob was also the head coach at Whittier, where he led the Poets to SCIAC titles in 1997 to ’98.
Michael also got the coaching bug and now has over 20 years of experience, including stops as quarterbacks coach at Whittier and Azusa Pacific, as well as Maranatha and South Hills high schools.
Bob has been the head coach at Chapman since 2006.
“It’s crazy sometimes how high his football IQ is,” junior quarterback Andrew Chavez said. “He knows everything about the game.”
Michael, who also has served as a supervising deputy probation officer for Los Angeles County for the past 27 years, was Chapman’s quarterbacks coach from 2006 to ’09 before returning in 2013.
“He’s the guru of our offense,” said former Chapman quarterback Michael Lahey, a two-time SCIAC Offensive Athlete of the Year in 2013 and ’14.
Together, the Owens brothers and the rest of the Panthers staff helped Chapman in 2014 advance to the NCAA playoffs for the first time in the program’s 20-year history in Division III. Chapman also earned the highest national ranking in program history last season at No. 17.
Both relish the mentorship aspect of coaching.
“I love it when (athletes) get it. They get what you’re trying to say,” Michael said. “I have a saying that, ‘Eventually, you’re going to get it.’ Life is designed for you to do that. Hopefully you can do it while you’re here so you can play and help us. Not 10 years from now: ‘Oh yeah, that’s what he was talking about.’ I like it when they get it and they start to trust you and believe in you because you have their best interests at heart.”
Lahey said that both Bob and Michael care about student-athletes beyond their athletic accomplishments. They ask about players’ families, academics and future plans because they want to develop a well-rounded graduate.
“They’re really approachable people. They really get to know you both on and off the field,” Lahey said. “I don’t think they’re just doing it to put on a front. They’re doing it because they definitely care about you and want to see you grow as a person.”
Football has bound Bob and Michael together their entire lives. Working together on daily basis has helped them appreciate their relationship even more. Their families, their kids, are very close, too.
“It’s always been a very special relationship. It always meant everything to me to have a brother,” Bob said.
“My dad used to say to me: ‘Who you learn from is everything. Who you hang out with is everything,’” Bob said. “And so simply stated, if you want to do the right things in life, then you need to be sure you hang out with the right people and you learn from the right people and you do things correctly. And that’s how I’ve coached.”