TAYLORVILLE — It was the exact moment Brandon Odam had been waiting for, and it couldn't have come further from the playing field.
The Sunday after Taylorville opened the regular season with a 20-8 win over Mount Vernon, Odam hopped in his car and headed to the high school. Tornadoes' football coach, and Brandon's uncle, Jeb Odam, had finally invited Brandon to the coaches' meeting to install the game plan for the next opponent.
The meetings happened every Sunday in Jeb's office at the high school, with Brandon and the offensive coaches bouncing ideas off one another. Each one was a learning experience that helped Brandon get a leg up in the prep leading into the following game. He turned those into a monster season, throwing for 3,578 yards, while completing 70 percent of his passes for 40 touchdowns, and rushed for 813 yards and 13 scores for Taylorville on the way to the Class 4A state quarterfinals to earn the Herald & Review Area Football Player of the Year.
"When coach Odam asked me to do that, I’ve been waiting for that," Brandon said. "That is something that excited me like nothing else. I grew up in football. I've bled purple and gold my whole life so kind of getting to be a part of what goes into the practice plan and what areas of the defense we can attack, I learned so much through the offensive coaches and offensive staff through that Sunday film. I loved every minute of that."
Jeb Odam had never done anything like that before. He had run a traditionally tight ship, formulating the game plan and passing it to his team at the Monday practice. But he knew Brandon had to be more involved. Brandon wants to play college football, has seen about everything on a football field and had plenty of valuable input to bring to the meetings.
All told, Jeb admitted that for as much as Brandon learned in those two-hour meetings, so did Jeb. He learned how to trust his players and welcome them into the planning.
If Brandon didn't like an idea, the coaches listened and scrapped it for the week. If there was something he was particularly fond of, they focused on that. He'd earned the trust of his coaching staff as a three-year starter. Jeb "100 percent" trusted Brandon's input and experience.
“If you spend time around Brandon you’ll know he’s a guy who things have always come very slow for him," Jeb said. "When you coach him up, you think what you say to him goes in one ear and out the other, but he soaks in everything. He believes in it, he trusts it and then all of a sudden in a game, when I’d forgotten about it, he pulls it out and it works.
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“Having been around that long enough, I just felt that he’s going to lead the team, everything was going to flow through him and having him part of the process was something that had to happen."
When the Monday practice came around, Brandon was ready to go with a plan in place for how Taylorville planned to pick apart another defense on Friday night.
“I felt humbled, honestly, to know I’ve kind of earned respect in that manner," Brandon said. "I’ve learned a lot from coach Odam, but just from being out in practice I can’t learn what’s going through his mind watching film. I kind of have that part of him in me just wanting to get in the film room and wanting to see what they’re doing and wanting to see what we could attack. I loved every minute of it."
Those Sunday nights, and the subsequent week of practice, translated perfectly to the football field. Taylorville ran roughshod over its opponents this season, with the exception of an eight-point Week 8 win against Mount Zion and the quarterfinal loss to Rochester.
Taylorville averaged 42 points in the regular season and allowed opposing teams an average of just 17.7 The Tornadoes aced through Chillicothe IVC and Columbia before the Rochester game.
“Going through IVC and Columbia we had a lot of confidence," Brandon said. "I guess we had swagger going through Rochester week. We were pretty confident in ourselves and that’s what you always want. We wanted that game since we were freshman. We got it, and you know the outcome. But our guys fought hard. I’m very happy to be a part of one the best teams in Taylorville history and I’m proud to be a Tornado."
Jeb calls Brandon the "total package" at quarterback, with size at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, the arm and a brain that slows down the game of football, and an "it factor," Jeb said. That should lead him to the next level.
“I want to keep competing," Brandon said. "I don’t want to end my career as a football player. Right now I don’t feel like I’ll ever stop. I know one day it will come to an end, but I don’t want that to be right now."