Football's All in the Family for TU's Odom
Oct. 9, 2000
Football in modern day America is as much as a tradition as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Independence Day. It encompasses everything from large cities to small towns to entire families. Many Americans spend weekends and holidays either gathered around the television, listening anxiously to the radio, or for the die-hard fans, watching the game while siting on a cold hard seat at the stadium.
TU senior Chris Odom was brought up in this kind of an environment, but instead of watching football, his family played football. His father, Larry, played college football at Southeastern Oklahoma State in Durant, Okla., while his brother, Mike, attended Evangel College in Springfield, Mo., where he also played football.
So, it's easy to imagine that Odom not only had one good act to follow, but two in the form of his father and brother.
"Football has always played a big part of my family life," Odom said. "My brother is five years older than me, so I remember watching him play when I was really young. Then, I watched him play in high school and college. After watching him play for so long, it gave me the inspiration I have to play today. If it wouldn't have been for my dad and brother, I would not be as good as I am right now."
Odom began playing football in Poteau, Okla., when he was in fourth grade. As early as seventh grade, he was following his brother to the weight room. Odom's high school weekends consisted of playing on Friday night and then getting up early on Saturday morning to drive four hours to Springfield to watch his brother play.
While starring at Poteau High School, he followed his father and brother's legacy by capturing a conference championship as a senior. What's so unusual about that is the fact PHS has only won five conference championships in football and the Odom family contributed to three of the five.
"All three of us won a conference championship as a senior. My dad won in 1965, my brother in 1992 and my class in 1996. Although I never played with my brother in high school, we used to have a competition when I played. We compared who had the most tackles and who got the most honors. At the end of my high school career, I had more tackles than he did, but he received more accolades," Odom said.
Following his prep career, Odom wanted to continue playing football and follow in his family's footsteps. But instead of following his brother at Evangel College where he was recruited, Odom enrolled at The University of Tulsa on a football scholarship. He says he wanted to go his own way and be the first in his family to play "big-time ball" at a division I school.
Odom's career at TU has been steady. He is a three-year starter on the defensive line and currently has 138 tackles. Even at Tulsa, Odom carries on his family tradition by playing as a defensive end. Both his father and brother played the same position at their respective colleges.
"With my brother and dad both playing defensive end, they have always been there to help me and teach me different aspects of the position. Even now, they'll ask me after the game `what are you doing' or `what were you thinking'. Most of what they say is constructive and it has really helped me get to where I am now. Even when my brother was in college and I was in high school, he was teaching me things."
Odom attributes all of his success to the self-discipline and responsibility his father instilled in him when he was still a young boy. His family owned a 220-acre farm outside Poteau with 150 head of cattle to take care of.
"My dad owns his own business, a distributorship, so I was working by the time I was in the sixth-grade. My brother and I used to get up at 3:30 in the morning to go pick the milk up and deliver it to the stores in Poteau. My dad still gets up every morning and delivers milk. I think that's one reason why my brother and I are so close because we were both working together as well as growing up together," Odom said.
Odom describes his entire family as a "close-nit group". His parents, brother, grandmother and even his aunts and uncles all make their way to Skelly Stadium for all the home games. He says that knowing he has family in the stands encourages him to play harder.
"It means a lot to me to have my family at the game. Some of them drive an hour or more to watch me play, and that says that what I'm doing is worth something. There's just a little bit more incentive to play harder when I have family in the stands," Odom said.
As much as football encompasses the Odom family, there is one family member who keeps it all in perspective. Susie Odom, the mother of one current and one former college football player and wife to another, doesn't take the game as serious as her sons and husband. Odom says his father is still a "real football junkie" and it's his mother who keeps the family on an even keel.
"Sometimes I don't think my mother really liked having to put up with three football players, especially if one of us got hurt. She really keeps the game in perspective and realizes it is just a game. If we lose, my dad may be griping at me, but my mom would just say it's not that big of a deal. She likes football, but she sees the human aspect of the game as well," Odom said.
For the past five and a half years, Odom has dated his high school sweetheart, Deborah Warren. Warren has made the same sacrifices as the Odom family for the past four years as well, which is making the trip to Tulsa on college football gamedays. Warren is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, so she must make the two-hour jaunt from Norman to Tulsa via the Turner Turnpike every Saturday.
"Two weeks ago, Oklahoma played Rice. When the game was over she drove to Tulsa to watch us play against Louisiana Tech. Her family all went to OU and that's all I hear about is OU-OU, but sometimes they'll do the same thing, and that sacrifice means a lot to me," Odom said.
Odom is in his final season as a Hurricane football player and he says he has no plans to play professionally. One of his post-college goals is to someday own a business. However, one of his biggest goals is to have a family with the same strong bond as the family he was raised in.
"My mom and dad taught me how important is to have a strong family. Without my mom and dad, I wouldn't be where I am today," Odom said.
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