Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Former Merritt Island Mustang Coach Gerald Odom Among All-Time Best In Florida
By Space Coast Daily // November 15, 2020
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME 2012 INDUCTEE
GERALD ODOM – 2012 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: FHSAA All-Century Team Coach, Back-To-Back State Championships, 268-85-2 Career Record
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame inductee Gerald Odom lives a quiet life in retirement on a small lake in Douglas, Ga.
His slow, controlled pace life is the polar opposite to his life as the head football coach of the back-to-back Class 4A Florida State Championship Merritt Island Mustang teams of 1978 and 1979.
Odom, who was born on Feb. 5, 1941, starred at Apopka High and graduated from the school in 1959. He was a three-year letterman at the University of Florida in 1960, 1962 and 1963 for coach Ray Graves. Odom played on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“(Graves) taught us to be prepared and to know our opponent,’’ Odom said.“He said, ‘Don’t ever let them outwork you.’”
Coach Odom took that advice to heart, ensuring that his teams were always highly conditioned, disciplined and well prepared.
Odom was an assistant coach under Byrd Whigham at Melbourne High in 1966 when the Bulldogs defeated Fort Lauderdale 31-12 to win the Class 2A Championship Game. That was the biggest classification in those days.
In 1967, Odom joined Eddie Feely’s staff at Merritt Island, where, as Mustang defensive coordinator in 1972 he was instrumental in Merritt Island’s decisive 40-21 win over Tallahassee Leon in the Class 4A championship game.
DISCIPLINE, HARD WORK
When Feely moved to Florida State to become the Seminoles’ freshman coach under Bobby Bowden, Odom took the helm at MIHS, continuing the legacy of a consistently good football team and turned the Mustangs into a perennial state football power.
State championship games weren’t held at neutral sites such as Orlando, Tampa or Gainesville in that era. In 1978, Merritt Island High had to travel to Pensacola Pine Forest for the Class 4A Championship Game.
“Rather than take buses, the (Merritt Island) Quarterback Club flew us up,’’ Odom said.
“That was one of the big things that helped us win that game. We were able to pretty much treat it like a regular game as far as preparation. Flying was a big deal for our players. It was a great experience.’’
Merritt Island defeated Pine Forest, 20-6. “We had a great staff and the kids believed they could do things they probably shouldn’t have been able to do,’’ Odom said. “We went out and performed well.’’
With several returning stars and Odom’s focus on discipline, exceptionally hard work and preparation, the Mustangs defeated Pine Forest 19-14 in the rematch hosted by Merritt Island to claim another state title in 1979.
The Mustangs came close one last time under Odom when they lost 40-14 in the 1989 Class 4A Championship game to a Fort Lauderdale Dillard squad guided by Otis Gray that had several future Division I collegiate players.
Odom compiled a record of 191-57-2 at Merritt Island before leaving the school after the 1994 season. He took a year off from coaching to work for American Football Coaches Association Online, a college recruiting service based in Florida.
ESTABLISHED WINNING TRADITION AT COCOA HIGH
In 1996, Odom became the head coach at New Smyrna Beach High School. In six seasons with the Barracudas from 1996 to 2001, he posted a record of 55-17.
When an old friend from his Merritt Island days, Cocoa High Athletic Director Chuck Goldfarb, had an opening to be the head coach of the Tiger football team, Odom returned to Brevard County.
In three seasons from 2002 to 2004, Odom’s teams were 22-11, and established a winning foundation at Cocoa, which later helped John Wilkinson, who played for Odom at Merritt Island High, take the Tigers to national prominence and state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Odom, who finished his head-coaching career with a record of 268-85-2, was named one of Florida’s top all-time coaches when the Florida High School Athletic Association named its All-Century Team.
FOR INFORMATION about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame call 321-615-8111 or e-mail MaverickMultimedia@gmail.com
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