There are few seething balls of pent up rage for whom I hold great affection. But 2002-2003 Odell Thurman is one of them.
Thurman came to Georgia from Monticello, and by the time he arrived had already taken some hard hits. He lost both parents at a young age. He struggled at times to stay out of trouble and in the classroom, but found refuge on the football field.
I had the good fortune to work in Jasper County while Thurman was starring on the gridiron in Athens. The town rallied around him in the way only a small town can truly embrace one of its own. Part of it was simple hometown pride. Part of it was that few places in the Peach State bleed red and black quite like Jasper County.
Let’s be clear, there’s a lot about Odell Thurman’s brief football career that was tragic. Thurman left Georgia after his junior year in large part to take care of a young son. After a standout rookie season, drugs, alcohol, and a tendency to put fist to face in the presence of drugs and alcohol kept Thurman perpetually in Coach Marvin Lewis’s doghouse until his release by the Cincinnati Bengals.
But for a time, Odell Thurman was the most joyously disruptive force on the college gridiron. Just ask Auburn QB Jason Campbell.
“I was waiting for anything that crossed the goalline” Thurman said after the game, “and the first thing that crossed the goalline was the ball.” Georgia’s 26-7 drubbing of the Plainsmen in Athens in 2003 was the sequel to the “70 X takeoff” victory, and the first Georgia win over Auburn in Athens since 1991.