Catching up with Michael Odell (Football)

September 11, 2009

He’s been called crazy, delusional and stupid.

Michael Odell of Kodiak doesn’t care what you call him – just as long as it’s a Vol.

The former all-state wide receiver from Alaska said he didn’t have a lot of supporters when he decided to walk on the football team at the University of Tennessee rather than accept scholarship offers from smaller schools. It didn’t matter, though.

“People were saying I was stupid,” he said from Knoxville, Tenn. “They were saying it was crazy for me to come here because they didn’t think I would fit in or play. But I just use those people as motivation.”

Odell, a 20-year-old sophomore, is hardly the only “Rudy” in the SEC. However, the 6-foot, 211-pounder does bring a no-fear, balls-out mentality each time he hits the practice field as a member of the scout team, just like the famous Notre Dame walk-on portrayed in the movie.

Except this ain’t Hollywood.

“When I’m on a kickoff team and I run downfield and then I get blindsided by somebody I never see coming,” Odell said with a laugh. “It’s about 10 times worse than high school.”

It’s all been worth it, though. Last season he dressed out for a home game against Mississippi State and got to run onto the field in front of 110,000 screaming fans.

“You can’t really prepare for that,” he said.

Just a little different than the Northern Lights Conference, right?

“Oh, just a bit,” Odell cracked.

Odell believes he’ll be back in uniform for Saturday’s game against UCLA, so keep an eye out for No. 26 roaming the Tennessee sideline.

Until then, though, check out what his life is like as a member of the Vols.

Question: Why did you want to walk-on at Tennessee when smaller schools offered you scholarships?
Answer: The first college football game that I can remember watching was the ’98 national championship game between Tennessee and Florida State. I’m sure I watched games before that but I just don’t remember them. Tennessee ended up winning that game 23-16.

Q: Was that the moment you wanted to be a Volunteer?
A: Yeah. I was 9 years old.

Q: What does being on the scout team mean?
A: We pretty much imitate the opposing teams and, like, last weekend we played Western Kentucky (UT won 63-7) and the defensive coaches said that our scout team ran Western Kentucky’s offense better than Western Kentucky did. So, I mean, we do our job to help the team get better.

Q: Did you have a ‘welcome-to-the-SEC’ moment?
A: Yeah I guess I did. Do you know who Eric Berry is? He’s our All-American safety. It was the first week of practice last fall and I caught a pass over the middle and just got decked by Eric Berry. Welcome to college football.

Q: Was that the hardest you’ve been hit on the field?
A: Oh, yeah. No doubt about it.

Q: Did you hang onto the ball?
A: I don’t fumble.

Q: How much reaction do you get about being from Alaska?
A: (Scoffs). Endless. I guarantee at least three times a day I get different questions. The coaching staff knows me as Alaska or the Alaskan Assassin; somehow I got titled with that. Apparently that’s the Alaskan nickname for athletes.

Q: What are you majoring in and what’s your class schedule?
A: I’m a history major. This semester I’m taking French, World History, U.S. History and English.

Q: How brutal is it juggling college classes and football obligations?
A: Fans don’t actually realize how much work goes into getting ready for the season. They don’t realize we get up at 5:30 in the morning and go lift weights three or four days a week. Get done with lifting, go to class. Get done with class, go to practice until 6:30. And then from 6:30 you go to study hall until 9.

Q: How do members of the scout team earn the right to dress out for home games?
A: It depends on how good we’ve been practicing. If we do a good job, if we work hard, if we do a good job in the weight room, then you might get to dress out. I didn’t get to dress out for the Western Kentucky game, but I probably will this weekend against UCLA.