SERVICE: Saturday, January 12, at 11 a.m. at the
Funeral Home, 1724 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, Pa. 19301
Williams College was Bob Odell's third head coaching job in the collegiate football world, a world that Odell first made a name for himself in as a standout two-way player for the University of Pennsylvania.
Born March 5, 1922 in Corning, Iowa, Odell came east to make his mark on the college football scene. Odell passed away early on the morning of December 15, 2012 in Pennsylvania.
For the Penn Quakers Odell was a halfback/defensive back who was a threat as a runner, passer, receiver, punter and kick returner. Odell captained the Quakers his senior year and earned the Class of 1915 Award, which was based on character, personality, scholarship, and athletic ability.
In his Penn career Odell was named to four All-America teams, finished second in the Heisman Trophy in 1943 to Angelo Bertelli of Notre Dame. Odell did win the prestigious Maxwell Award (1943) as the top collegiate player in a vote by a panel of sportswriters, sportscasters, NCAA head football coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club.
Odell graduated from Penn with honors having majored in both economics and history and served in the U.S. Navy before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. A serious knee injury ended his professional football-playing career early and he began his 40-year career as a college football coach as an assistant at Yale.
After serving as an assistant coach at Yale, Temple, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Odell accepted the first of three head coaching positions at Bucknell University, coaching the Bison from 1958-64.
The football coaching position at Bucknell is named after Odell who led the Bison to two Lambert Cups in his tenure. In 2005 a permanent monument recognizing Odell's contributions to Bucknell football was erected in Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
|Herb McCormick '78 & Bob Odell|
From Bucknell Odell moved on to serve as the head coach at his alma mater, Penn, from 1965-70, before coming to the Purple Valley to coach the Ephs in 1971.
Odell's stint as head coach of the Ephs was his longest coaching tenure, stretching 16 seasons from 1971-86.
At Williams Odell went 75-49-4 (.602), captured 10 Little Three titles and was named the Eastern Small College Coach of the Year in 1975 when his Eph eleven posted a 7-0-1 record.
In 1987 Odell was honored by the New England Football Writers Association with the George C. Carens Award for outstanding contributions to New England football.
His first season at Williams Odell broke a three-year losing streak against Amherst, downing the Lord Jeffs 31-14. That win over Amherst spawned what is now known as the best post-game tradition in America, "The Walk."
"We were just so darn happy to have beaten Amherst it did not surprise me to see our team go out the main gate and head up towards Spring Street," said Odell. "I just thought, 'Well isn't that nice, the boys look like they are having a little fun."
"You know, this is an event that could only happen at Williams," added Odell. "It just says so much about how close the teams are and how much they want to celebrate their victory with everybody in town."
One of Odell's first moves as the Eph head coach was to do away with the Ephs' white helmets. Odell unveiled the solid purple helmet at his first team meeting saying, "See this dark helmet? From now on, we're going to be the bad guys," recalled Ernie Smith '72. Williams has played in purple helmets ever since.
"Bob was always a gentleman and he was always looking out for the welfare of the kids," said former Eph head football coach Dick Farley, also a College Football Hall of Fame inductee (2006). "He was like a father figure to me, a mentor," continued Farley who spent 15 years as an Odell assistant. "He was the only college coach I ever worked for and he had a great pedigree having coached in both the Big 10 and the Ivy League."
Bob Odell ranks third in wins all-time at Williams with 75, trailing only Charlie Caldwell (76) and Dick Farley (114).
Odell was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Bob Odell is survived by his wife of 67 years, Jane Davis Odell, of West Chester, PA and three children: his son Dr. Robert Harper Odell, Jr. and his wife Suzanne, of Las Vegas, NV; and two daughters, Nancy Odell McMullen, and her husband Jim, of Berwyn, PA; and Cynthia Odell McEtchin, and her husband Douglas, of Pleasanton, CA.
A memorial service will be held in Philadelphia in early January.