By Travis Stahl
for IN|Whitley County
COLUMBIA CITY — Former Columbia City High School football player Buddy O’Dell had no idea his decision to play football at Earlham College would send him on a winding path that would culminate in a career in the National Football League.
Recently, O’Dell was hired by the Green Bay Packers to work as an equipment manager with the team. He will make the move to Green Bay, Wisc., in the next couple of weeks when he reports to the team. Although O’Dell isn’t sure of the specifics of his new job yet, he is ready to get started.
“I might need to start earlier with the draft upcoming but it’s going to be great,” said O’Dell.
O’Dell knew after high school that he still had a passion for football which led him to Earlham. But an injury in the first weeks of summer training camp ended his playing career. O’Dell didn’t want to walk away from football, so he transferred back to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and coached at Fort Wayne North Side High School. He still wanted to see what else was out there in the football world, so O’Dell transferred to Southern Mississippi University.
As an equipment manager with Southern Mississippi, O’Dell found what he was looking for. He was a part of teams that played against some of the biggest in college football as the team played opponents like Tennessee and Florida State. O’Dell was also able to make a connection with a Southern Mississippi alumni that would prove to be pretty important later on. Being at Southern Mississippi means being around the school’s most famous former player, Brett Favre.
O’Dell graduated from Southern Mississippi and earned a spot working as an intern with the Baltimore Ravens. O’Dell worked with the Ravens’ defensive line and received some valuable advice and contacts from the team. He sent out resumes trying to find a position with teams and heard back from several of them. But one call in particular caught O’Dell’s attention. And after two phone interviews with the Packers, he had a face-to-face meeting with the Packer’s head of equipment, Red Batty.
Favre enjoyed a hall of fame career in the NFL and started his playing days in Green Bay. O’Dell was able to have Favre reach out to Batty and put in a good word for him.
“It’s neat to have Brett Favre as a job reference,” said O’Dell.
O’Dell met Batty in Houston for a final interview and was offered the job. Now, O’Dell is in the process of preparing for the move to Wisconsin and is excited to get started on his new job.
“I’m really looking forward to being in that environment and that culture,” O’Dell said of being with the Packers. “There’s something special about being around other people that want to be great.”
As an equipment manager, O’Dell may be put in charge of a specific group of players. For instance, he could be paired with the wide receivers. He would then make sure their equipment is functioning properly and take care of any needs the players have if something breaks. O’Dell said his job will basically be that of a service role to help make sure the players are able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
“I’m blessed,” said O’Dell. “I will have to work hard and I’m excited for that.”
O’Dell will have to be in Green Bay and ready to go soon. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 27 and 28. Shortly after that, teams will hold rookie training camps for their new players. In mid-July, teams will officially open training camps and O’Dell and his fellow equipment managers will be putting in long hours to make sure everything is ready for player use.
Most high school football players dream that one day they will make it to the NFL. They never imagine that dream will actually come true especially they way it did for O’Dell. O’Dell now has the chance to work with some of the greatest athletes in the world and continue being a part of the game he loves.