Kent State football ‘great’ Luke Owens dies over weekend



Henry Palattella

Kent State’s Athletic Department lost a key member of its family over the weekend, as former football standout Luke Owens passed away this past weekend at the age of 83.

Owens spent three years playing for Kent State, and helped to guide the Flashes to their first-ever bowl appearance in the 1954 Refrigerator Bowl.  

Owens was a force on the field for the Flashes, as he played every position but quarterback during his time in Kent. He was unstoppable on offense, evidenced by the fact that the 1954 team still holds the Kent State records for scoring (36 points per game), as well as total offense (451.3 yards per game).

Owens was also a part of a defense that recorded six shutout victories during his tenure.  

“Luke was a natural leader that inspired all of us,” former teammate Allan Kaupinen told Kent State Athletics. “At reunions, Luke was always the same friendly, outgoing guy we knew in college. Everyone liked Luke.”

Owens was the 27th pick of the Baltimore Colts in the 1957 draft, which is still the highest draft selection of any Kent State player. He was traded to the Chicago / St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, and named an all-pro selection in 1963. Owens played in 115 career NFL games, and recorded six fumble recoveries and one safety.  

1980 proved to be a year of achievement for Owens, as he was named to not only the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, but also to Kent State’s second varsity “K” Hall of Fame class.

He was a graduate of John Adams High School in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was a state champion in the shot put and discus events. Owens also earned two letters in track & field during his time at Kent State. 

Owens made the most of life after football, as he not only ran a restaurant in East Cleveland, but also served as a manager of the Cleveland East Job Service Office.  

“Luke was all football player,” Kaupinen told Kent State Athletics. “He played every down to the nth degree. He was great on offense and defense, and he was the first one down the field on special teams.”

Calling hours for Owen will be held on Friday, from 5-7 p.m. at E.F Boyd & Sons Funeral Home in Cleveland. Funeral services will be on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at East Mount Zion Baptist Church in Cleveland.

Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].