The University of Southern Mississippi has many traditions. The Eagle Walk, our mascot, Seymour and the memorable songs chanted at football games. But we should remember the tradition that has been here since 1976.
A man who brought luck to Southern Miss when former Golden Eagle head coach Bobby Collins would tie this man’s shoes before every football game. A man who has been here for more than 40 years and is considered the No. 1 fan of Golden Eagle football.
Owen Bowen, more commonly known as O.B., is a dedicated USM fan.
“If there was ever a fixture for this university, somebody that has been here longer than anybody, it’s O.B. Bowen,” said Jeff Bower, a former USM head football coach who has known Bowen since the 1970s. “Everybody loves him, the players do, the coaches do.”
According to southernmiss.com, Bowen was recently inducted into the Football Hall of Fame for his loyalty and long-term involvement with the university.
Bowen, 61, is from Richton, Miss. and he attended college at USM from 1976-1978. He continued his love for football after graduation by devoting his time to the Southern Miss Athletic Center. He has worked with the equipment staff and the football office administrative staff.
Claire Tynes, a junior speech pathology major and front desk assistant at the Southern Miss Athletic Center, works with Bowen.
“[O.B.] is with us all the time,” Tynes said. “He brightens everyone’s day and he’s really outgoing and energetic.”
Tynes also explained the strict schedule he adheres to while at work. She said he arrives at work every day around 9:15 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., he will check the mail and he eats lunch every day in the Fresh Food Company from 11-1 p.m. Then, he always goes to football practice at 3:40 p.m.
Bowen was in the Fresh Food Company when I met him for the first time. He was sitting with Ken Rhinehart, a professor in the environmental sciences department, and Doug Masters, both good friends who eat with him almost every day.
“We’re part of O.B.’s family [at Southern Miss],” Rhinehart said.
Rhinehart and Masters knew things about Bowen that most people do not know.
The men said Bowen is an avid watcher of “All My Children,” but he prefers to call it, “All My Kids.”
Every two weeks, he serves on the Perry County Volunteer Fire Department. Bowen loves traveling to Braves games and his cousin is Chipper Jones, a third baseman who used to play for the Braves.
His favorite song is “Back in Black” by AC/DC and he is an expert on Hattiesburg nightlife and loves to go to the “Gold Post.”
Bowen also has a collection of more than 10 watches from different USM bowl games.
He said the watch he currently wears is the 1997 Liberty Bowl watch commemorating when USM played Pittsburgh.
Rhinehart said O.B. is a legend at Southern Miss. He joined the football program in 1976 when he was a student at USM.
“O.B.’s dad told him to stick with football,” Masters said.
Bowen said his favorite thing about Southern Miss is the football and the students. He said his favorite Southern Miss football moment was “when [USM] beat Ole Miss in 1970.”
Other than Bowen’s dedication to Southern Miss football, he also takes the time to get to know people. John Barnett, assistant recruiting coordinator for the Southern Miss Athletic Center, also works alongside Bowen in the office. He said Bowen takes great pride in his job and makes every day interesting.
“O.B. is always interested in [my] life,” Barnett said. “He is always asking me how my parents are doing and my parents live in Virginia. He has a good memory and a lot of good stories to tell.”
“If you ask [O.B.] what his job is, he says he runs the office,” Barnett said. “He has to sit in a particular chair so it gives him the best view of who’s coming in the door.”
Barnett said people come in all the time and do not think O.B. will remember them. But, he always remembers them by their first name.
“He’s really personable and a joy to be around all day long,” Barnett said. “Every day he comes to work, it’s for Southern Miss. It’s not for any other reason besides the fact that he loves this university,” he added.
He also talks about Bowen’s tradition of standing on the sidelines during the USM football games and how things changed when he was accidentally hit by two football players during the USM vs. SMU Homecoming football game in 2011.
“The first thing O.B. wanted to know was if his face looked okay,” Barnett said. “He didn’t even feel any of the pain in his leg. He did a lot of rehab and didn’t come back to the office until .”
“So this past season, he was up in the press box for all the home games. They wouldn’t let him near the sidelines. But this past game [at Marshall], they let him come back on the sidelines,” he added.
The students and faculty members who work with Bowen said he’s recognized for his love of Southern Miss football, whether or not it’s a winning season.
“He has been at Southern Miss through the good times and the bad,” Tynes said. “He’s been there to celebrate the winning seasons and he’s been there to pick everyone up about the losing season.”
He’s also recognized for various character and people skills that have made him well known at this university.
“[O.B.] is one of the most interesting men I’ve met in my life and I’m a better man for having known him,” Barnett said.