After Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster scored on a 31-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-19 win over the Dallas Cowboys, he promptly made for the middle of the field—an unusual destination for someone who has just scored a touchdown.
No doubt, countless NFL fans wondered what he was up to, but Cowboys fans and those with an appreciation of NFL history recognized right away that Smith-Schuster was possibly thinking of paying homage to an infamous touchdown celebration made by former San Francisco 49ers receiver Terrell Owens twenty years earlier.
On September 24, 2000, Owens scored a first-half touchdown against the Cowboys and promptly sprinted to celebrate on the Cowboys star at midfield. After Owens caught another touchdown pass to give the Cowboys a 40-24 lead late in the fourth quarter, he again ran to midfield to reprise his celebration. But Dallas defender George Teague took exception and a melee ensued.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Tries to Pull a Terrell Owens
As it turns out, JuJu Smith-Schuster made only a half-hearted attempt to recreate Terrell Owens’ moves, something he hinted he might do in a pre-game TikTok video. In part, that’s because Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (#94) slapped the ball out of Smith-Schuster’s hands, slowing his roll towards midfield. That gave Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (#99)—a college teammate of Smith-Schuster’s at USC—time to put himself in a position to impede further progress, by which point Steelers running back James Conner was already trying to dissuade Smith-Schuster from continuing the celebration.
In the end, Smith-Schuster did offer the same pose made by Owens when he celebrated on the Dallas Cowboys star two decades ago, but Smith-Schuster did it near the Steelers sideline, muting the effect.
After the game, Smith-Schuster confirmed that he did intend to pull a Terrell Owens—and that Conner played a role in convincing him to abort.
“That first celebration, I was going to do the T.O. star celebration,” Smith-Schuster told reporters after the game. “[Gregory] basically knocked the ball out of my hand, probably would have tackled me. James Conner came over and pulled me over and was like, ‘It’s a close game.’ You just never know what can happen, and I didn’t want to start anything. But if it was a far, far blowout game, I would definitely love to do that one day.”
But Woods said he was wise to Smith-Schuster’s ways.
“I saw a video before the game that had him on the star,” Woods told the Dallas Morning News. “He’s always doing stuff on TikTok. I knew with him being my college teammate that was something he might do. I was going to make sure he didn’t get there. We have zero tolerance for that.”
Terrell Owens Reacts to JuJu Smith Schuster’s Celebration
Yet JuJu’s attempted celebration did not go unnoticed by the long-since retired Owens, who gave Smith-Schuster a shoutout via Twitter.
Owens played in the NFL for 14 seasons between 1996 and 2010, spending eight years with the 49ers, two with the Philadelphia Eagles, three with the Cowboys and one season with the Buffalo Bills. In the course of 219 games he amassed 1,078 catches for 15,934 yards and 153 receiving touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and won first-team All-Pro honors five times.
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