Kyle O'Dell imagines it every day and now is on the road to someday being able to do it.
The Oxford native recently signed on as a scouting assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.
It's been his lifelong dream to become an NFL general manager, even if others, including his family, sort of rolled their eyes at first.
"That was kind of the attitude from the get-go," O'Dell said the other day from Niners camp in Santa Clara, Cal. "The most common reception I got when you say you want to work in the NFL and one day reach my goal of being a general manager was that's a pretty far-fetched statement from someone from my situation, just a small town in Alabama, to say.
"But I guess when you're determined to do something and you want something all the time, I was thinking I've really got one shot at this thing and I might as well give it all I've got."
O’Dell played football and baseball at Oxford High, but a shoulder injury prevented him from pursuing a collegiate playing career to the fullest. He moved away from the field, but he never lost his passion for sports.
He enrolled at the University of Alabama and one day drummed up the courage to seek out the dean of students for an honest assessment of his career goals of being involved in the game.
Usually the students who meet with this dean have fallen into some kind of trouble and the initial tone of their conversation was what had O'Dell done to get on the docket. But when he explained he wasn’t there because he had done anything wrong, just to share his goals and interests to see about getting more involved on campus, the dean took an interest in him and helped get him a spot in the football office.
At first it was a volunteer in recruiting operations, then it grew into full-time spot.
When he graduated in May and it came time to enter the real world, O’Dell knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Jody Wright, Jacksonville State's current recruiting coordinator, was on the Crimson Tide staff during the time O'Dell was on campus. He remembers a driven, detail-oriented staffer who could do well at the next level.
"Any time you walked in the recruiting office, he was always on top of the guys in his area," Wright said. "The coaches really thought a lot of him. One thing I remember about him was whatever job needed to be done, he'd do it and was very detailed oriented. Everybody thought highly of him. You knew he was going to move up."
O'Dell thought he had a spot with the Philadelphia Eagles, where former Alabama player personnel director Ed Marynowitz is the assistant director of player personnel, but that fell through. He was preparing to take an internship with the Kansas City Chiefs, but shortly after their last conversation, the 49ers called back and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work for a Super Bowl contender.
He also talked to several college teams about a spot in their recruiting division — Boston College, Cal, Oklahoma — but the lure of the shield was strong.
"I don't think anybody really ever thought I'd get to where I am right now," he said. "I kind of proved some people wrong from that standpoint. I'm just going to keep going. I going to have to keep working hard and do what I know I can do. If the pieces fall in place, they will. If they don't, then I’m just going to keep doing what I love to do.”
He said he ultimately wanted to be in the NFL.
"I just thought it was a better fit,” he said. “I wanted to be able to interact and evaluate the most elite athlete at the most elite of football. That’s what I’m getting (with the 49ers)."
He said working in the Alabama football organization was good training for the NFL.
"The priniciples from Alabama to NFL are pretty similar, what I was doing there recruiting," O'Dell said. "Kevin Steele, our director of player personnel when he first got hired at Alabama to run the recruiting organization, the first thing he told us was what we were doing is NFL type stuff, front-line scout stuff and since I've been here (with the Niners) it's been pretty similar.
"The change is athletes on a whole 'nother level and determining the little things that aren't part of the college game, such as determining the draft value of a guy or the smaller things taken into a bigger account at the pro level because you're investing millions of dollars into these guys."
As one of two scouting assistants with the team — the other is James Hall, who recently retired after 12 NFL seasons as a defensive end with Detroit and St. Louis — O'Dell is basically in a year of training to be a scout. He's helping preparing the team's college scouts' schedules of school visits and helping evaluate the team's current wide receivers. He's responsible for cutting up film and presenting prospects from about 50 smaller schools, from Hawaii to Jacksonville State.
It's a lot for a 23-year-old to absorb, but he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"When I'm sitting in there it's almost kind of sureal, to be honest with you," O'Dell said. "I'm sitting two feet from Anquan Boldin listening to him explaining things to the rookies and younger guys. I can't write down stuff fast enough.
"There are one or two, sometimes five, things that happen during my day where I have to sit back and say man, that was cool; how awesome was that what I did. I have to take a step back. I'm trying to be as driven as possible. I know this is just the first step and one of many more I want to take."
O’Dell’s placement with the 49ers gives Calhoun County a third connection to the club, and second from Oxford. Kevin Greene played one season for the Niners late in his 15-year career, the year he broke Lawrence Taylor’s record for sacks by a linebacker (1997). Anniston native Eric Davis played for the Niners and is now an analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts as well as a co-host for the NFL Network’s NFL.AM program.
“I’ve not gotten to see Eric yet,” O’Dell said. “Apparently, he's going to be around closer to the preseason first game (Thursday vs. Denver)."
Now that he's on the road to living his dream, O'Dell hopes to inspire others to reach for their stars even when others think they're just too high.
"I hope it's something other people can feed off of, other kids who want to do sometihng in sports," he said. "That's all I was coming out of high school. I wasn't gifted enough to play the game, but that doesn't mean you have to be done with the game.
"If you want something, find a way to get involved. If you want something you have to pay some dues, but there's no reason why everyone shouldn't try to find follow their dream if it's something that is obtainable."
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.