HARRISONBURG – As an agent for State Farm Insurance, Colin Owens is constantly putting items on his daily calendar. So when a woman called a few weeks ago and asked what Owens’ schedule looked like the following week, the former Bridgewater College punter didn’t blink an eye.
Until she said, “We need you in Hollywood.”
“I was like, ‘What?’” Owens said by phone Thursday. “I was flabbergasted. She said, ‘You’ve been selected to be in the commercial with Coach [Bob] Knight.’”
All of a sudden, a Division III punter was en route to mini-celebrity status.
Owens, a Madison County native who graduated from BC in 2007 and now owns a State Farm firm in Yorktown, is the main character in a 30-second television advertisement that features the legendary Knight. The commercial is airing during this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.
The ad leads with the 27-year-old Owens, playing Knight’s insurance agent, nervously telling the former Indiana University coach, “So, Mr. … Coach Knight, I did a discount double-check and combed through your policies, and found you hundreds in savings.” A few seconds later, Owens asks, “So, you’re happy?” Knight, playing on his reputation for a quick temper, shouts angrily, “Don’t I look happy?”
In a version posted on YouTube, Knight then is shown gripping a desk chair, a reference to an infamous incident in which Knight threw a chair across the court while coaching an IU game. But that bit doesn’t appear in the television version for fear of the clip carrying a “negative connotation,” Owens said.
“I can definitely tell you from experience that he was all for having the chair [for the TV version]. He was a really good sport about it,” said Owens, the son of the late Colin Owens Sr., an administrator for Harrisonburg public schools for about a decade.
Knight, he said, was surprisingly easy to work with.
“I was picturing somebody that was going to come in and be someone who was going to do a lot of finger pointing and run the show, my way or the highway type thing…It really wasn’t like that,” Owens said. “He gave his suggestions for what he thought might be a benefit to humor or something like that, but he just kind of went with the punches.”
Once an honorable-mention All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference punter, Owens was one of many State Farm agents recommended by the company to audition for the part in January. Last fall, he tried out for another State Farm commercial featuring Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – TV viewers may remember a Cheesehead Packers fan yelling “Rodgahs!” through the window – but Owens failed to get the part.
“Around Christmas time, I told my wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to get redemption?’” Owens said. “Sure enough, in a couple weeks, I got an email saying I had an audition in Virginia Beach [for the Knight commercial].”
After being picked for the commercial based on the Virginia Beach tryout, he went on to film the ad in Hollywood for two weeks beginning March 1. Knight, now an ESPN analyst, flew in for the first day of shooting after calling the Cincinnati-Marquette game in Cincinnati the night before.
Initially, Owens said he was “not trying to be in [Knight’s] face,” but they ended up bonding. Knight, Owens said, was a punter in high school – and that’s not all they talked about.
“I said, ‘Coach, do you miss coaching?’” Owens recalled. “He said, ‘You know Colin, I loved it, but I love what I’m doing right now easily as much. I don’t want to say I miss coaching. I did everything I could in coaching, but I really love calling games.’”
Although Owens said he had no acting experience beyond high school drama class, it’s clear why he got the part. His personality is effervescent – he married former BC cheerleader Brittany Sue Mears, saying he “chased her for 4 ½ years.” He raves about BC football coach Michael Clark, remembering how it “meant everything in the world” when Clark attended his father’s funeral in 2004. He credits his mother, Harrisonburg native Lou Owens, for being an anchor in his life since then, noting that she was by his side for the duration of the commercial’s filming.
Clark, in an interview Thursday, joked that Owens “could have had a Bridgewater football cap on” for the commercial. Owens laughed, saying he tried to wear a giant Bridgewater College class ring, but the detail-oriented film director repeatedly told him to put it in his pocket.
“I have one of the biggest class rings I’ve seen, and I wear that sucker every day of my life,” Owens said.
Does the former Eagle have a future in acting?
“I can’t say that I would turn down Hollywood,” Owens said.
Ex-BC Punter A Star (Sort Of)
Posted: March 16, 2012
By PAUL MONTANA
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