Most athletes who reach National Signing Day have two things in common, hard work and dedication.
And Millington Trojan George Odum is no different. Last Wednesday the Trojan Football Program gathered in the Millington Central High School Library to celebrate Odum’s signing to The University of Central Arkansas.
“He’s a very responsible and driven young man,” Odum’s aunt Lisa Harrell noted. “You don’t see that very often in teenagers these days. He’s worked hard and he’s had to overcome a lot to get to where he’s at. I’m very proud of him.”
Odum entered Harrell’s life and home the spring of 2010 after the May Day Flood damaged several homes throughout Millington. Trojans Head Coach Chris Michael remembers that citywide tragedy and how it affected his latest signee.
“A little skinny 10th grader that got put out of his home when the flood hit three years ago and had to move in with family members, didn’t show up to fall practice because he didn’t have a ride,” he said. “He was living with an aunt. It was, ‘Where is he? We remember him.’ Then we got to finding out he got displaced because of the flood. We started going to pick him up and giving him rides everyday.”
Investing gas mileage and time into the future of Odum, Michael said he would see quickly his potential to be a college football player.
“He was just a lanky kid who would hustle everyday in practice,” he recalled. “He would hit you but he only weighed about a dollar and 50. He caught our eye from the get-go. Through his work as a youngster, a 10th grader, he was able to move into the starting lineup in game five. Not only that, he moved in as a linebacker, 150-pound 10th grade linebacker. He ended up being the second leading tackler on our team behind Alan Cross that year. It just took off from there.”
Odum said it was the help of current Memphis Tiger Cross that helped him became one of the top Trojan defenders the last three years.
“I’m happy that played with Alan Cross,” he said. “He taught me a lot and he almost broke my back one time in practice.”
Facing tough competition whether in practice or on game night didn’t faze Odum after overcoming the adversity he faces after the flood.
“This day means a lot,” he said. “I can really start on focusing on what I really want to do in life. How can I help out my family now that I know that I have everything paid for with school?
“It was rough times then after the flood,” Odum continued. “Ms. Lisa has had a dramatic effect in my life. If it wasn’t for her and my family, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. Their support means they’re there for me. They will be behind my back.”
Harrell and Odum’s uncle Rob Danielson attended football games and track meets over the years. When Odum was winning two medals in the Class 3A State Track Meet last year, his family was nearby cheering.
“His uncle and I try to do the very best we can to make sure we’re supporting him,” Harrell said. “We always feel like education comes first. So football is a close second, but education comes first. We try to teach all our kids to be responsible, work hard.
“If you’re responsible and work hard and you keep going after it, you’re going to get whatever your dream is,” she added. “I don’t have any kids of my own. The other three, his siblings, George stands up and he’s the leader among all of them. He’s jovial and fun.”
Odum said his four years at MCHS have been a mixture of fun and learning things that will benefit him at UCA.
“Most people don’t know what leadership is,” he said. “I take ROTC, so I have to lead other people into the right direction, because most people don’t know where to go or what to do unless other people tell them. When you start telling them, they will become a great leader.”
Odum said he had great leaders like Coach Michael and staff, his track coaches and the faculty of the school. It was that support team that made sure Odum qualified for Signing Day.
“He’s got his score earlier,” Michael noted. “It takes a lot of pressure off the guys when they get in there early and they get their test score as a junior. That was what George was able to do last year. He was able to get an early good score to get him qualified.
“He kept his GPA up,” he added. “He’s been solid in the classroom keeping a near B average. That’s important.”
Michael said with his grades in order, Odum didn’t have to worry about the rest.
“He’s definitely an exceptional athlete and versatile,” he said. “I think that’s one of the appeals from all the schools that recruited him. They were recruiting an athlete. They looked at him on the defensive side of the ball primarily.
“But they knew them when they got him on campus and into their program,” Michael continued, “he could be utilized as a receiver, kick returner and multiple places on the defensive side of the ball. Anytime you recruit anybody that can do multiple things for your program, you have a definite asset that you’re adding.”
Using his God-given abilities and the lessons he learned from leaders in his life, Odum said he had a simple motivation that help him overcome adversity through the year.
“All I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to still be on that farm taking care of pigs,’” he acknowledged. “I just kept pushing myself to be something in life. Most of my family doesn’t have much money. And I don’t want to be like that. I want money in the bank and be financially stable.
“I’m going to try to take all the classes I can and get my Masters in five years,” Odum concluded. “Hopefully, I want to be a dentist. I’m not sure yet. The NFL is in my plan. If I am able to get drafted, I’ll take that. But I’m just worried about school right now.”