The opportunities opened up so many doors and it changed my life course history on not only who I was then, but for the next 40 to 50 years of my life. It’s allowed me opportunities now in the role that I am in having a chance to impact student-athletes that we have today.
Tales of Barry Odom’s toughness read more like urban legend folklore. Each story over the course of time has developed its own identity, becoming larger than life while being told with a touch more sensationalism each and every time. Torn ligaments in his wrist and knee couldn’t slow him down – nor could a venomous spider bite suffered during his time at Mizzou. He committed to playing college football at Mizzou while on the operating table. If you scroll through the Mizzou Athletics photo archives, many of the pictures featuring Odom have visuals of his right wrist taped almost up to his elbow, giving the appearance that he played much of his career through an injury that would have sidelined most.
While many of those feats read as hyperbole, they are founded more in truth than in urban legend. Despite being dubbed ‘too small to play linebacker’ by his home-state schools of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Odom thrived at Mizzou. The team embodied his leadership and toughness and broke a 13-year bowl drought in 1997. His renowned toughness helped him rise through the coaching ranks, landing the head coach job at his alma mater. With visions of modeling a program based on the foundation of his legendary toughness, Coach Odom knows that he has a tremendous responsibility to everyone associated with Mizzou’s Football program.“There were a lot of people before me who have worked long, hard hours and poured a lot of sweat equity into this place to make it what it is today,” Odom said. “I’ve got a huge responsibility to continue that and try and take it to a new level.”
“Mizzou has changed my life.”
For someone who was born and raised in small-town Oklahoma, coming to Mizzou for a college football career was a big decision. But for Coach Odom, it was an easy decision.
“The impact that the people of the university immediately made on me was something that I wanted to be a part of,” Odom said. “I could see myself here.”
The latter part turned out to be a massive understatement. Odom has been a part of Mizzou Athletics for almost two decades in various different roles – player, coach, operations. Through his experiences, specifically as a player and a student-athlete (1996-99), he has developed an appreciation for all that Mizzou has done for him.
“The opportunities opened up so many doors and it changed my life course history on not only who I was then, but for the next 40 to 50 years of my life,” Odom said. “It’s allowed me opportunities now in the role that I am in having a chance to impact student-athletes that we have today.
None of that would not have been possible without the generous people that have provided so many resources to our university and our athletic department through the Tiger Scholarship Fund.”
Odom is able to draw upon memories of defeating then-powerhouse Texas, led by 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, at Memorial Stadium in 1997 to get Mizzou on the cusp of bowl eligibility. He remembers going to Colorado the next week and earning a 41-31 win that gave Mizzou its first bowl appearance in 13 years. It’s those moments that he revels in; moments that he hopes to duplicate for his players as he now leads the program against the nation’s elite in the SEC.
“I’ll never forget the look and the feel of the locker room after that,” Odom said. “I take the experiences I had as a student-athlete here and try to influence our current team on the rewarding things that are out there on becoming a close team.”
As the State of Missouri’s flagship institution, the word Mizzou is often associated with a great sense of passion and pride. As a player at Mizzou, Odom learned all about what it meant to represent the entire Show-Me State. Hard work. Toughness. Tradition. Pride. Grit. These are principles that have come to define the people of the great state of the Missouri. They are also cornerstones on which Odom plans to build Mizzou’s Football program.
“The people of the state of Missouri have tremendous values,” Odom said. “The things they appreciate and respect are the things that I’m trying to build everyday within our football program and the culture of who we are.”
While Odom has ambitions and visions of grandeur for Mizzou’s Football program, his hopes and ideals run much deeper than just winning football games. He strives to prepare young men for not just four years of their lives, but for the next 40 or 50. He draws upon the same experiences that he had as a player at Mizzou to inspire and uplift his current players. Coach Odom recognizes the importance that comes with playing with Mizzou across the chest. He also recognizes the opportunity that the generosity from fans and donors throughout the state provided for him – and he hopes to instill that value in each one of his players.
The people of the state of Missouri have tremendous values. The things they appreciate and respect are the things that I’m trying to build everyday within our football program and the culture of who we are.
“When our players leave Mizzou, I want them to know that I dealt with them fairly and honestly in every situation, that I did everything I could to help them get their college degree and that they have a plan for what they are going to do with that degree,” Odom said. “I want them to know that I’ve helped them become the best football player that they can become. Then, I want them to be productive members of society. If you can do those components and reach your players in that way, then they can go out and change society.”
The coaches, support staff, professors and countless others had that impact on Coach Odom. Now, it is Odom’s turn to pay that forward and continue to impact and change society in a positive manner.“Mizzou made me become a dreamer and go chase and set goals that will really test me as a person every day. Mizzou provided me the foundation to go chase those dreams.”
What does it mean to be #MizzouMade? That moniker has been a staple for Mizzou student-athletes for years. It is often associated with athletes who have excelled at the highest levels of their respective sports, but the true meaning runs much deeper.
While there are certainly examples of former Tigers excelling in professional athletics, there is a much larger contingent of Mizzou student-athletes thriving in today’s fast-paced, competitive work environment. What each of those student-athletes learned at Mizzou has prepared them for life beyond sports.
The mission of Mizzou Athletics remains to prepare champions for life through a personal enhancement model that emphasizes academic and athletic excellence, social responsibility, career development and leadership in order to help each student athlete become a prepared professional in any field upon earning their degree.
#MizzouMade Monday aims to tell those stories of student athletes who are bringing those values and ideals of Mizzou into the real world every day.