He always kept that coaching mentality, though, and instilled his strong work ethic into his son.
“He always pushed me to be my best academically and athletically,” Wise Central football coach Luke Owens said of his father. “Even when I was in college, he would call me and make sure I was getting everything done right on the field and in the classroom.”
That competitive spirit has contributed to the younger Owens’ never-ending desire to win.
“If we’re home playing a board game, I want to win,” the coach said. “If it’s worth playing, it’s worth playing hard and winning.”
Owens completed his sixth and most successful season in the fall of last year when he guided the Warriors to a school-best 10-3 season and a Region 2D runner-up finish.
“I think we were a little farther ahead of what we thought we were going to have,” Owens noted. “We had a young team, but they were talented. Our coaching staff put in a new offense, the wing-T and our kids really adapted to it well.
“From Game 1 to Game 10, we saw steady improvement every game.”
Owens’ effort with the Warriors earned him coach of the year honors on the 2019 Times News All-Southwest Virginia team.
His success story, however, started before his team’s strong run through the Mountain 7 District and Region 2D last year.
A Grundy native, Owens was one of the top wrestlers in one of the state’s top programs.
The 1998 Grundy graduate won three VHSL wrestling championships and still owns the national record for quickest pin by a heavyweight at four seconds.
Owens went undefeated at 34-0 his senior season.
He also won the Junior Nationals championship — now called the Fargo Nationals — the summer before his senior year, and he was a Junior Nationals All-American three straight years.
Owens was also an all-star on the football field for Grundy. The Golden Wave’s combined regular-season record over his final three seasons was 26-4 — including a 10-0 mark his junior year.
ON TO TECH
Owens continued his football career at Virginia Tech, where he started on the line his junior and senior years.
His time with the Hokies included a trip to a bowl game each year, including the 1999 season when they played Florida State in the national championship game in New Orleans.
“That was my redshirt freshman year,” Owens noted of the Hokies’ Sugar Bowl berth. “My entire time at Tech was just a great experience.”
Like most football players, Owens had thoughts of making it to the NFL. His career path went a different way, however, and he went to education and coaching.
The 2005 Virginia Tech graduate returned to Southwest Virginia where he’s been a high school coach since.
Six years ago, he took over the Central football program.
“The first two years we did pretty good. The next two years we couldn’t avoid injuries. The next year the bunch of sophomores we had last year were freshmen and went 4-6. And then last year. It was pretty gratifying,” Owens said.
With more than 30 juniors and sophomores expected back this fall, the Warriors’ future looks bright.
“We’re excited about the next few years and the potential that is here,” Owens said. “If we’re going to go farther than what we did last year, it has to be important to these kids.
“We’re getting there. We had boys in the weight room before all of this (pandemic) hit. They’re wanting to get back. They’ve been calling and messaging me and wanting to get back.”
That’s a positive that Owens sees as the difference between a successful season and a successful program.