By Rahul Lal

While Terrell Owens may be considered one of the most controversial figures in NFL history off the field, he has always been respected for his talent and abilities on the field. His controversies were largely considered to be the reason he didn’t get voted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year but that doesn’t seem to affect Owens too much.

I was able to get a chance to sit down with the former wide receiver at the launch of his new athletic clothing line, Prototype 81, hosted by MRket Tradeshow.

“It’s all good,” Owens said regarding the Hall of Fame vote. “At the end of the day, I’m on to bigger and better things. I wasn’t disappointed, I felt more disrespected in terms of my body of work and what I put in to do and accomplish some of the things I did.”

Owens, 42, was drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Currently, he ranks second in NFL history in career receiving yards and third in career touchdowns. The only players ahead of him are Randy Moss (three touchdowns ahead) and his mentor, Jerry Rice.

“I had the best teacher in Jerry Rice,” he said. “Just watching him on a day-to-day basis, it would be equivalent to somebody being drafted and playing with Kobe or Michael Jordan at the height of his career so I tried to soak up and absorb whatever I could from a football standpoint from him because I was raw.”

Owens was born and raised in Alabama but played basketball, football and ran track at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wearing jersey the number ’80’ for his idol, Rice. While he’s thankful for how far he’s come, Owens didn’t anticipate having such an incredible career.

“I never saw myself playing beyond the collegiate level,” Owens said. “I don’t really consider myself a football player, I consider myself an athlete. Again, my physical attributes are what allowed me and enabled me to become the receiver that I did.”

While Owens played his last NFL game back in 2010, he has been rumored to be interested in making an NFL comeback as recently as April, 2016. The Los Angeles Rams apparently expressed interest in the veteran receiver given their lack of depth.

“I think it’s ludicrous when people think I can’t contribute to a team,” said Owens.

Whether you think he can or can’t produce in the NFL, there’s no doubt that he’s ready to take the next step off the field with Prototype 81.

“I’ve always dressed well and presentable and my line is kind of like my persona out on the football field; somewhat unique, flashy, a little bit different,” he said. “Prototype means the basis of which something is made or molded upon and when you spell prototype, you can’t spell it without T.O.”

There’s absolutely no question as to whether Owens had a great NFL career but it seems as if he’s ready to move on and has found the perfect way to express himself post-football.

Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.