AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's first black scholarship football player, James Owens, has died after battling heart problems. He was 65.
Owens' wife, Gloria, told the Opelika-Auburn News that he died of renal and heart failure shortly after noon Saturday at his Auburn home. She says he was surrounded by family.
A fullback, Owens played for the Tigers from 1970-72. Auburn created the James Owens Courage Award in 2012 to honor current or former players who had persevered through adversity.
The New Orleans Saints drafted Owens in the 11th round of the NFL Draft after his senior season at Auburn.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn says Owens was a trailblazer who ''changed Auburn for the better and opened doors for countless young men and women.''