Odom still not satisfied

After yesterday's timing session, Antwan Odom wasn't happy. Despite being clocked at 4.6 flat for the 40-yard dash (an excellent time for a defensive end), Odom wanted more. <br><br>"My goal is to get it down in the 4.5 range," he explained.

Knowledgeable fans will probably laugh at that statement. After all, legitimate 4.5 speed is associated with wide receivers--not linemen. But it's hard to bet against Odom in achieving any physical goal. Since arriving on campus at only 237 pounds, the Bayou LaBatre native has built himself into a 6-5, 279-pound monster.

Shown versus Auburn his freshman year, Odom Odom has prototype size and speed to play defensive end.

Defensive line Coach Stan Eggen commented on his nascent star. "With Antwan, the physical abilities are there, but the best thing about him is he's not afraid to work. He works hard in the weight room and he's learning to work hard on the practice field. What he just needs to do is gain experience. I wish we could bottle up a year and put it in him."

Due to his impressive combination of size, speed and strength, Odom's teammates only half jokingly call him a "physical freak." But Odom isn't letting any of it go to his head. "I don't do that because any day it can end," he said. "God could end it today. Something could happen and I wouldn't be able to walk again. I don't want that attitude. My surgery was one of those painful lessons.

"I went to church a lot, which helped me. If God wants you to do this, then he'll make it so you can do it. That's why I don't get the big head."

The surgery Odom refers to took place last fall, when Tide doctors operated to repair a chronically "loose" shoulder that would pop out of joint without warning. Normally, such injuries involve a long and painful rehabilitation process. But Odom healed remarkably fast.

"My shoulder is 100 percent, and it's been that way since the first day of spring drills," he said. "I haven't had any problems out of it. It hasn't been hurting at all. I don't know that I'm a quick healer. I was just motivated. I was tired of sitting out. I love football, so I wanted to be out there."

Things are fine now, but initially his recovery was far from easy. Odom explained, "There was a lot of pain. The pain lasted for about a month and a half. I couldn't move my shoulder for a while, and I could only do forearm exercises. But then I added arm, biceps and triceps.

Odom squats in the Tide weight room. Since his shoulder surgery last fall, Odom has made remarkable gains in size and strength.

"There was pain, but after a month or so it felt pretty good."

After six weeks of gritting his teeth, Odom's shoulder rapidly gained strength. And by December he was even thinking about the Independence Bowl. "I was ready," Odom related. "I wanted to play in the bowl game. Coach Fran asked me, ‘Are you ready to play in the bowl?' I thought he was serious, so I said, ‘Yeah, I'm ready.'"

Thankfully, Franchione had no intention of burning Odom's medical redshirt year on one game. And after a brief period at the beginning of spring when he favored his repaired shoulder, Odom is now back better than before. "I went through a lot of doubt at first," he admitted. "I was 100 percent back, but I wasn't sure of my shoulder. That last day before spring break is when I felt like my old self again."

Beyond his trust in Franchione on the football field, Odom appreciates his head coach on a more personal level. "I love Coach Fran; he's like a father," Odom said. "He's going to tell you the truth. You might not like it, but he's going to tell you the truth. He'll tell you what you're doing wrong and what you need to do. I love Coach Fran.

"He really follows up on what he says he's going to do. And he doesn't beat around the bush either. He had a talk with me and my wife. He told me that I needed to get on my books. And he told her to stay on me and not let me get down."

To some, Franchione's direct comments might sound like an intrusion into a young man's personal life. But Odom sees it differently. "I didn't resent it at all. I listened. Nobody else ever told that to me. The way I look at it is that he cares enough to tell me. Before Coach Fran, my mom and grandmother told me, but that was about it."

D-Line Coach Stan Eggen and Odom (#98) on the practice field. The Tide coaches are working with Odom on playing fast, attacking the line of scrimmage and using his hands to ward off would-be blockers.

Odom credits his mother and grandmother for raising him right, and their instruction included a healthy disdain for taunting. "I don't trash talk," he explained. "I've never done that. I'll say a few words if somebody says something to me, but I hate trash talk. If you trash talk and don't back it up, then you look stupid. If they're talking to me and I beat them, then I might say ‘What do you think about that?' Or ‘I see you stopped talking.' But I don't try and trash talk. I just go play."

Of course politeness on the football is very much a relative thing. And don't think for a second that Odom isn't out to dominate his man. "It's you against him," he said. "You're trying to beat him, and he's trying to beat you. It's a battle. You have to take it personally. They're going to do whatever they can do to block you, stop you from getting to the quarterback or running back. You've got to do what you can to get there."

Off the field, Odom can be quiet, even shy around strangers. But once he gets to know someone he's quick with a smile and kind word.

But that pattern changes once he steps across the chalk line. Odom explained, "That's one of the things I always told myself. When I get on the field, that's one thing. But in public I'm going to be Antwan. I'm going to be a humble-type person.

"But on the field is a different me. Sometimes I'm nice on the field, but if somebody does something to me, then it's over with. That's the mean Antwan."


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