SURREY — Spend even a few short minutes chatting it up with Kojo Odoom, and you very quickly discover that Lord Tweedsmuir’s blue-chip senior cornerback has a lot more measurables than your average high school football player.
So many more in fact, that if you engage the Panthers’ standout — a CanadaFootballChat.com CFC 100 selection — on any number of topics, you’re struck not only by the 17-year-old’s honesty, but by his ability to step out of the box and deliver inspiring, independent thoughts.
Yes, he is excited about Friday’s 3 p.m. AAA Eastern Conference home opener as his No. 1-ranked Panthers play host to No. 2-ranked Terry Fox.
Yet he is just as engaged when discussing the educational component which will be part-and-parcel of his life as a university student-athlete next season.
“Me, I was really torn,” he begins of where his true academic heart stood. “At first, I had no idea what to study at (university). Everyone just talked about kinesiology so I just decided that it would be my major. But over this past summer, I changed it up. I started to realize what I found interesting was the way that people think. So I’ve changed to psychology and I’m even taking an introduction to it now.”
In a broader sense, Odoom has always been a thinker, and as you examine the greatest gifts he brings to his Panthers’ teammates, it’s sometimes hard to separate the athletic from the cerebral.
“As a corner, you are already a step behind a quarterback and receiver, so your instincts are just so important,” Odoom says as he breaks down life covering the province’s top pass-catching threats from game to game.
“It’s up to you to be a step ahead, to take chances and play tough in those kinds of situations,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder continues. “Before practices, before games, I am always just visualizing what I am going to do. It’s always on my mind.”
For Kojo Odoom, senior year has meant having to step up in ways he hadn’t imagined.
It was back in spring camp when running back Braeden Hutchinson suffered a torn ACL, so cruelly shelving a rising senior set to take his rightful place as one of the most dynamic players in all of B.C. high school football.
“He had been a running back in Grade 8, and back then I had seen him run with it,” remembers Tweedsmuir head coach Kurt Thornton of Odoom. “He knew how to take a hand-off, how to carry it high. He was a natural. He could stick a foot in the ground and change direction really well. He had good acceleration. Good churn.”
In fact there’s a great picture of him back in his running back days posing post-game with B.C. Lions’ great Geroy Simon in 2012 after the team MVP helped lead the Cloverdale Bobcats to the B.C. Pee Wee championship title.
“That’s when I was 11 or 12,” Odoom laughs, “back in my stone-cold running back days.”
His return has been, in a lot of ways, as stone-cold as ever.
“As Brady emerged,” Thornton continues of Hutchinson’s early, community-level prowess in the offensive backfield, “Kojo just became more and more of a receiver. But he has looked very good since we’ve put him in there.”
In fact on the first play from scrimmage last Friday in Tweedsmuir’s lopsided road win at Centennial, Odoom took a hand-off and rushed 70 yards for the score.
Precisely where he is headed after this season is still an unanswered question, but Odoom admits getting his national Top 100 ranking from CFC was extremely meaningful to him.
“I had no idea they were even looking at me or my team,” said Odoom, “so it caught me off guard when the coaches told me about the ranking. It’s given me a load of confidence knowing that people see the hard work you are putting in. It’s boosted my confidence.”
So too, did a summer spent crisscrossing the U.S., networking with other coaches and players at several top football camps on NCAA campuses.
Odoom attended a camp in New York at Fordham University, did a dip through the Ivy League at Columbia and Harvard, before strapping on the pads at Stanford.
MEASURING THE IMMEASURABLE
Ask Odoom about his favourite NFL players, and the answer he gives supports all theories about the fact that, despite his athleticism and overall understanding, his game is first rooted in effort.
“Jalen Ramsey, when he’s on the field, he feels he’s the best and that he will dominate all the time,” Odoom says of the Jacksonville cornerback. “It’s his attitude.
“And Denzel Ward,” he continues of Cleveland’s diminutive rookie corner out of Ohio State, “he’s a smaller, under-sized dude but I’ve always liked how aggressively he’s played.”
Watch Odoom’s highlights on Hudl and he’s not only smooth and instinctive, he’s a clean, hard-hitting tackler.
“He’s a shutdown corner and he makes text-book clean hits,” says Thornton of Odoom, whose six U Sports offers (UBC, Manitoba, Western, Ottawa, Laurier and St. Mary’s) and one NCAA offer (Simon Fraser) span the width of the nation. “And, he’s in incredible shape. He can go all day. In our two U.S. games (Washington state’s Burlington-Edison and Lynden) he played both ways and on specials.”
Cornerback, running back, receiver, special teams… he has served a true football apprenticeship.
And while there seems no question that the defensive secondary is his future full-time home, ask Odoom precisely why, and seemingly on cue, he so swiftly and refreshingly delivers his answer while jumping outside of the box.
“As a kid I played a lot of running back,” he begins, “but honestly, when it’s offence, there can be so much politics in who gets the ball. But defence? I like the fact that you have to go and find the ball.”
It’s like they say, there’s some stuff you just can’t measure.
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