BY JEFF FALK
There exists a theory on life which attempts to dispel things like karma, destiny and a Supreme Being. It states that our paths in life are based solely on the decisions we humans make, and that each previous one has a profound effect on future ones.
Now I’m not saying that I – or the subject, for that matter – necessarily subscribe to this theory. But it does speak to the role that decisions play in our lives.
Recently, Lebanon’s Jared Odrick made the most important decision to this point of his young life, one which will impact the rest of it going forward. It wasn’t a right-or-wrong decision, as much as it was a ‘good, better, best’ scenario.
But it was an informed decision.
Here are a few of the things the former Penn State star weighed before making his decision – money, winning, the city, the internal and external make-up of the franchise, climate, income taxes and perhaps most importantly, how he was treated as a human being. When all things were considered, the choice was clear – Jacksonville Jaguars.
On Tuesday, a mere hours after he became a free agent from the Miami Dolphins, Odrick inked a five-year, $42.5 million contract – $22 million of which was guaranteed – to play defensive tackle for Jacksonville. Odrick played out a five-year, $13 million contract he signed with Miami, after being selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
“All of those are very important,” said Odrick. “The first thing I recognized about the Jaguars was how they viewed their franchise, how their fans viewed the franchise. Jacksonville is a city on the rise. It feels that way. How it feels about its players. It’s a different approach to football. It’s a different approach to their team. It’s a different approach to living.
“The outcome is enjoyable,” continued Odrick. “The process is nothing but decision making. My agent and I looked at it like: ‘You’re good at your job and people want that.'”
Odrick, who was ranked 18th among defensive tackles in 2014 by one NFL insider’s complicated formula, was one of the top free agents available in what has been a wild off-season to this point. Nearly a dozen teams reportedly showed interest in Odrick, including Indianapolis, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Dallas, Oakland, New York Jets and New England.
Odrick is a versatile and durable defensive lineman who can play the tackle or end positions in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
“About ten teams showed little to high interest,” said Odrick, 27. “You try to sift through the empty gestures and identify the meaningful ones. When you hear ‘You’re a hell of a player’ or ‘I respect your game’, it’s a good feeling to be appreciated. But I’m not the best player in the league and I haven’t made a pro bowl.
“I didn’t know anything about it (free agency),” added Odrick. “Anything that happens, you roll with it. You can’t really prepare for it. It’s a huge jump in commitment. There’s nothing that really prepares you for it. You listen to the process. My actual period of free agency was only a couple of hours. But everybody’s free agency is different. No one’s the same.”
Odrick was one of six free agents that the Jaguars brought in, for a total of $178 million. A member of the AFC South, Jacksonville has gone 9-39 over the past three seasons, including 3-13 in 2014.
“When it came down to it, they (the Jaguars) had the best diversified plan for Jared Odrick, the X-number free-agent, defensive tackle on the market,” said Odrick. “They were very consistent with their effort. I think I can be a good fit in their system.
“It’s a city on the rise, and you can feel it,” Odrick continued. “It’s new. In Jacksonville, it’s a fight for the future. People are eager to see what the future holds. It’s a different feeling. In Miami, there was more of a connection to the past, and I connected with the Miami Dolphin fans on a personal level.”
Towards the end of his stay in Miami, Odrick was becoming more and more of an on-field and off-field leader for the Dolphins. Last season, Odrick was honored by the local Miami media with their annual ‘Good Guy’ award
Now one of the new faces in the Jacksonville locker room, Odrick would like to continue to grow into that role with the Jaguars.
“It’s important to me to exemplify some sort of leadership quality in the way I handle myself,” said Odrick. “I don’t believe in vocal leadership. I believe in inspiring others, and that comes from actions. It’s something I want to do.”
Odrick was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year during his senior season of 2009 at Penn State. After injuring his foot in the Dolphins’ 2010 season-opener, Odrick missed almost his entire rookie year in Miami.
But over the past four years, Odrick did not miss a game in Miami. Shuffled into different positions on both sides of the defensive line, Odrick registered 129 career tackles, 16.5 career sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception as a Dolphin.
“I will remember my time in Miami as a learning experience,” said Odrick, who will be moving six hours north. “You try learning from everything you do. As far as wanting this to happen, some of the best teaching tools are learning to adjust, or finding meaning in things.
“Each year in Miami felt different,” continued Odrick. “I got to experience different coaching staffs. But the defensive line stuck together. We were a band of brothers. You always like to think that that’s never going to end.”
If Odrick manages to play out his new contract, he will be 32 in five years and will have played ten years in the NFL. There aren’t too many professional athletes who can say they accomplished that.
“I think about it a lot,” said Odrick about life after football. “I try to think about it enough to have something to entertain my mind. But one day at a time. One month at a time. One year at a time. I try not to look too far ahead. Hopefully it makes for a more streamlined learning experience for the future.”
Jared Odrick’s Career Stats