Wide Receiver, 1993-1996
After years of running slants, posts, and curls, Demo Odems knew exactly which route life would lead him when his football playing days were over.
The Austin, Texas native played wide receiver for the Hawkeyes from 1993-96, catching 55 passes for 925 yards in an explosive offensive attack that featured Sedrick Shaw and Tim Dwight.
A high school coach told Odems he’d make a great coach one day. That encouragement stuck with the former Hawkeye, and inspired him remain on the gridiron and mentor others.
Odems, 40, is in his second season as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Previously, he served as an assistant at Montana State and was also a head coach at the high school level in Texas.
In his first season on staff, the Lumberjacks went 8-5 in and reached the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Whether he’s on the practice field, in the film room, or roaming the sidelines on game day, Odems is constantly teaching. He doesn’t approach his role in an authoritarian manner, but rather as a source of guidance and provider of direction for the young men he coaches.
“My coaching style is all about being a teacher and a mentor,” he said. “I talk a lot about servitude and being a servant in your life. I’m trying to make sure my athletes able to prosper as young men on and off the field. Wins and losses keep me at a job, but to see a man graduate from college and have a successful work and family life after football is what I enjoy most.”
Odems had all the qualities of an ideal assistant, said Stephen F. Austin head coach Clint Conque. Not only did he have Texas ties and a background as a head coach, he brought invaluable experience having played wide receiver at a major college football program.
“We hit a home run,” Conque said of hiring Odems. “I couldn’t be more pleased with Demo’s coaching, recruiting and the chemistry he has with our staff and players. Having Demo is a huge get for us, and it’s paying dividends every day.”
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Playing on Iowa teams that featured dynamic playmakers such as Dwight, Shaw and Tavian Banks made it easy for Odems to be overlooked. Garnering less attention than his fellow teammates didn’t discourage him, though.
Despite being just 5-10 and 180 pounds, Odems established himself as a sure-handed receiver for the Hawkeyes. He caught five touchdowns and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch in his collegiate career, helping Iowa reach the postseason three times and earn two bowl victories during his time in the program.
“At the time, Tim Dwight and I were probably the smallest wide receiver tandem in the Big Ten,” Odems said. “We may have been the smallest, but we did everything we could to be the toughest. I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team win games and complement the offensive schemes we were running.”
One of Odems’ most memorable performances with the Black and Gold came against Minnesota in 1994. He scored a pair of touchdowns in a 49-42 victory over the Gophers.
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The first came less than two minutes into the game, recovering a Minnesota muffed punt in the end zone for an Iowa touchdown. Later in the game, Hawkeye quarterback Matt Sherman connected with the receiver on a 34-yard touchdown strike.
“Demo was a great route runner and had solid hands,” Sherman said. “He was an outstanding teammate that you knew was going to do the right thing on and off the field. I feel fortunate to have played with him and it is not a surprise that he is extremely successful in the college coaching ranks.”
After Iowa, he played professionally in the Arena Football League for the Grand Rapids Rampage, helping lead the team to an ArenaBowl victory in 2001. Odems’ performance in the championship contest earned him the IronMan of the game award.
The former Hawkeye’s goals aren’t all that different from any other person in the coaching profession. He aspires to be an offensive coordinator and perhaps even a head coach one day.
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While coaching in his home state of Texas has been an enjoyable experience, the opportunity to coach at Iowa would be “dream job” that he’d sign up for “in a heartbeat.”
Conque said his assistant head coach has shown great loyalty to the Lumberjack program. The former Hawkeye agreed to help lay the foundation for a successful football program at Stephen F. Austin, and has every intention of following through on that promise.
However, Conque has little doubt Odems will have opportunities to coach at larger football programs in the near future.
“I certainly envision him coaching at a Power Five school one day,” Conque said. “I’m hoping to hang on to him for as long as I can. A school like The University of Iowa would be very fortunate to have Demo on its staff one day.”