Thirty years from now, Jason Odom will remember Reggie White vividly.
Maybe many NFL fans will say the same, but Odom had some very close up looks at the all-time NFL great during his abbreviated NFL career. Odom retired on Monday, and as he looked back on his four-year NFL stay, he remembers his best and worst moments coming against White.
Odom took a few moments to speak with the media on Tuesday when his retirement and release from the Buccaneers was announced. Following are a few of his thoughts, including his memories of facing White.
How many years do you believe you would have played had your career not been cut short by injury?
"I don't think I would have tried to stay in for 17 years, but certainly I would have liked to have played 10 years, 12 years, something like that. But you never know in this game. It's hard to map out those things. I was just taking it day by day and working hard. Last year, at this time, even after my surgery, there was no way I sat down and thought about my career possibly being over. That was never even an option. So, in a sense, it's been a little weird going through all of this. But, in the same sense, I'm not downhearted or walking around moping for the next couple of months. My family is healthy and I have a lot of things to live for. I'm certainly going to do that."
What possible treatments might you seek next?
"I'm still having tremendous nerve pain, which I shouldn't be having. There are some more things coming forth as far as seeing specialists and possible surgeries to try to fix that. One of the things that has been mentioned is spinal fusion, take out the disc totally, two levels, and replace with bone. Those are the type of things I don't want to consider right now at the age of 26. I'm going to do all the other things and exhaust all other avenues before I go under the knife again."
How difficult was it for you to come to the decision to retire at this point in your career?
"I think things would have been harder right now if I were sitting here in front of you and I felt fine. That would be tough because I would be wondering if I could play. But there's no doubt in my mind that I could never play another snap. That's what makes this so much easier to me, to know that it's over and there's finality to it. It's not going to continue to linger, and now I can shift my focus totally to trying to get back to where I can live life. I'm a highly active person. I like the outdoors and I'm tired of sitting and doing nothing, basically. I've been able to do some things, but not like I normally do."
Did you consider retiring or see this possibility during the 1999 season?
"No. I never even dreamed I'd be in this situation. It didn't even crossed my mind. I never talked to anybody about it. I couldn't even imagine that I'd be sitting here doing this a year ago. Before I had this surgery, I talked to (former NFL lineman) David Williams, who's a guy that I've gotten to know who played at the University of Florida and asked him about his back surgery. He had back surgery about 10 or 12 years before his back forced him out of the game, and he said 'It was the greatest thing I've ever done.' I said, that's for me. I need to do this and I'll add 10 years onto my career."
Were there any particular games or matchups that stand out in your career?
"I think there are a lot of matchups, both good and bad. And those are associated with the same guy, and that's Reggie (White). I had probably my two worst games against the guy, and I had probably my three best games against the guy. Those (good games) kind of went (unnoticed) during those times. The Monday Night Football game here in the new Raymond James Stadium when we beat (the Packers) was a great experience. Certainly the Detroit game in the playoffs in '97, going against a Pro Bowl player in Robert Porcher … all of those memories will stand out. I'm sure I'll be able to recall all of those 20, 30, 40 years down the road."