In the history of Southern University Football, only two coaches have conquered such feats as winning the SWAC West Title, SWAC Championship and being named SWAC Coach of the Year in their first full season as head coach. Current Head Football Coach Dawson Odums holds that unique distinction as he looks to take the program to even higher heights as he embarks on his fourth season at Southern University here on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in 2015.
The Jaguar Nation witnessed its largest win total since the 2003 season and rejuvenated a national fan base that finished the season No. 1 in HBCU and in the Top 10 of FCS in attendances.
With over 16 years of coaching experience under his belt, Coach Odums lacks no motivation for the 2014 season as he looks to continue the winning ways Southern accumulated in his 2nd season by instilling the core values of a Jaguar (Commitment, Discipline, Effort, Toughness & Pride) on a daily basis in all facets of the program.
As the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, Southern football continued its quest to remain a consistent championship contender in 2014. Under Odums guidance, the Jaguars, who finished with a 9-4 overall record, went on a seven-game winning streak on the way to an 8-1 SWAC record and another SWAC Western Division title.
Conditioned to overcome adversity at every turn, the 2014 edition of the Southern Jaguars stymied opponents defensively, produced a high-octane offense, and provided countless electrifying plays on special teams that fueled their run to a second straight SWAC Championship game appearance.
Always the opportunistic defensive group, Southern ranked No. 15 nationally in the FCS and No. 2 in the SWAC in fumble recoveries. The Jaguars’ relentless pursuit of the quarterback produced the leagues No. 3 ranked and FCS No. 12 ranked team in team sacks.
Offensively, Southern, led behind the cohesion of a senior-laden offensive line produced the schools’ first 1,000-yard rusher in Lenard Tillery in 2014. Tillery finished second in the league rushing for 1,196 yards. The Jaguar offense manufactured several Top 3 rankings in the SWAC and Top 25 rankings nationally including scoring offense (34.2 points per game, 3rd in the SWAC, 22nd in FCS), sacks against (8, 2nd in the SWAC, 7th in FCS), first downs (20.3, 3rd in the SWAC), 4th down conversion (55.6%, 3rd in the SWAC), penalties (55.7 yards, 1st in the SWAC) Red Zone offense (84.3%, 1st in the SWAC).
No unit garnered more widespread acclaim than the Jaguars’ special teams corp in 2014. Among the units numerous accolades, Southern’s special teams produced four kickoff returns for touchdowns (1st in FCS, 1st in the SWAC), and led the country in total special teams touchdowns (7). Specials teams also led the league in blocked punts (3rd in FCS) and ranked 21st nationally in punt return defense (2nd in the SWAC).
As a result of the Jaguars’ success in 2014, several players received postseason honors. Led by SWAC Freshman of the Year and Jerry Rice award finalist Austin Howard, Southern placed seven players on the All-SWAC team, which include four first team All SWAC selections OL DeWayne Houston, OL Zach Brown, WR Willie Quinn and DE Arthur Miley. Running back Lenard Tillery, DL Gabe Echols and CB Danny Johnson were each named to the All SWAC second team while Quinn earned All-SWAC honors as a return specialist on the second team.
College Sports Madness tabbed Odums as its 2014 SWAC Coach of the Year, a honor the Jaguars head coach shared with 11 other players who were selected to CSM’s SWAC All-Conference team. Howard also received Boxtorow.com Rookie/Newcomer of the Year award while teammates Quinn and Houston picked up another the website’s 2014 HBCU All-American team honors.
During 2013's magical run, Odums had his team play through a streak where he dominated the SWAC competition going 9-2 in the SWAC Conference. Among the signatures moments during the 2013 season, Southern secured overtime victories versus SWAC competitors Prairie View (62-59), Alabama A&M (20-17), & SWAC Eastern Title winner Jackson State in the Championship Game (34-27). In his first ever collegiate head coaching position, Coach Odums has a winning percentage of .692% (9-4) and a combined overall head coaching record at Southern of .591% (13-9).
Statistically, Odums had all three facets of the game clicking on the field as his team had 16 categories finished in the Top 3 of the SWAC conference and 10 categories ranked in the Top 30 of the FCS final football standings.
Fueling Southerns's climb to the 2013 SWAC Chammpionship was a cohesive and efficient unit that ranked in the FCS Top 50 in several categories including third down conversion percentage (42nd), blocked kicks (45th), first down defense (50th), interceptions thrown (50th) and passing yards allowed (48th).
Led by a prolific offense, Southern also posted Top 40 rankings in the FCS in completion percentage (33rd), passing offense (20th), passing yard per completion (24th), scoring offense (36th), team passing efficiency (14th).
Southern specials teams unit finished ranked No. 1 in the FCS in blocked punts allowed (0) and finished ranked in the Top 30 in blocked kicks allowed (27th), blocked punts (15th), kickoff returns (10th) and punt return defense (10th).
Significant individual accolades ranging from All FCS to All Conference were accumulated due to the discipline Coach Odums teaches daily about “Team first, Me second” with All-SWAC honorees like Dray Joseph, Lee Doss, Jamal Mosely, Anthony Balancier, Virgil Williams, & Arthur Miley.
The highlights for the Jaguars do not stop there, 13 players earned their college degree in the 2013-2014 school year, while the fall semester produced 23 football players on the 3.0 Dean’s GPA list. His emphasis on developing the “whole” student athlete is clearly present as more than 25 students-athletes have graduated during his time as head coach at Southern.
While serving as the interim head coach after two games in to the 2012 season, he accomplished the unthinkable feat of being one of only two coaches in Southern history to own the distinction of having defeated Grambling State, Jackson State, and Florida A&M all in the same season (Pete Richardson 1993).
Odums, entered the 2012 season as Southern’s defensive coordinator and academic liaison. Odums' previous title of defensive coordinator changed to interim head coach two games into the 2012 season. The North Carolina native and N.C. Central graduate proceeded to lead the Jaguars to wins over Jackson State and against Florida A&M after an 0-2 start, claiming the programs first consecutive win streak since 2009.
During his 9-game tenure, Odums is largely credited with the Jaguars' success, placing an emphasis on player discipline and accountability, which translated into wins on the football field. He also stressed the importance of academics and community involvement as a cornerstone for developing quality student-athletes both on-and-off the field.
While serving as interim head coach, Odums produced five all conference selections; first team selection WR Lee Doss and second team selections QB Dray Joseph, OL Christopher Brown, LB Anthony Balancier and DB Virgil Williams.
Odums joined the Jaguars defensive staff after three seasons in various positions at Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference traditional power, North Carolina A&T. Prior to his arrival in Baton Rouge, Odums most recently served as the Aggies Defensive Coordinator in 2010 after having served as the schools defensive line coach and special team’s coordinator in the previous two seasons.
Under Odums’ guidance, the Aggies players thrived both defensively as well as through special teams play. Brandon Jackson became the first Aggie in five seasons to record more than 100 tackles in a season with 106. D'Vonte Graham led the MEAC in interceptions with seven.
The Aggies returned four kicks for touchdowns, blocked four punts -- one for a touchdown -- and had two players ranked in the top 20 in kickoff return yardage per game. N.C. A&T special teams ranked in the top 50 in punt return defense (26th), kickoff return yardage per game (46th) and kickoff return defense (15th).
The Aggies also had several special teams’ highlights under Odums leadership. Quay Long shattered a school record with a 96-yard punt return against Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 31, 2009. Punter Alex Grubb had five punts over 50 yards and placed 18 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Before going to N.C. A&T, Odums spent four seasons at Division II Clark Atlanta. From 2002 to 2003, he served as the Panthers assistant head coach, the defensive coordinator and the recruiting coordinator. In 2004, he earned his first opportunity to head a collegiate program when he took over as Clark Atlanta's interim head football coach. A year later, the interim label was removed from his title as he became the Panthers head coach.
Following his coaching stint at Clark, Odums became an assistant at the Aggies’ MEAC rival, Bethune-Cookman University. From 2005-2007 he coached the Wildcats' defensive line.
Odums has also been an assistant at Georgia Southern and Gardner-Webb.
He spent two seasons at Georgia Southern where he coached linebackers in 2000 and in 2001 coached the Eagles defensive ends. The 2000 season was a special year for Odums as he assisted the Eagles to the Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) National Championship.
Odums continues to improve his coaching philosophy and techniques by attending camps and conferences. He was recently selected to participate in the 2011 NCAA Expert Coaches Academy in Orlando, Fla. In the 2010, he was one of only 25 coaches selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the NCAA Coaches Academy in Indianapolis. The Academy is designed to train minorities for head coaching positions.
A native of Shelby, N.C., Odums began his coaching career returning to his high school alma mater, Crest High School. Odums turned in a stellar playing career for the Eagles of North Carolina Central University in Durham as a three-year starter and an All-CIAA selection his senior year, where he also served as a team captain. Following his playing career, he earned a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Physical Education in 1997.
Coach Odums has been married to his beautiful wife Audrey for 16 years, and reside in Zachary with their two daughters, Jasmine (10) and Jaiden (2).