Jim Oddo is looking forward to seeing several of his former teammates this weekend when the 1957 NC State football team – which won the school’s first ACC Championship – gathers on campus for a reunion. But Oddo will be running late. He has a football game to coach on Friday night.
Oddo, a center and linebacker on the 1957 team, is the head coach of the football team at Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic High School. It’s a position he has held since 1973. “I like the kids,” he says. “I like the camaraderie. It’s something I enjoy and have always enjoyed.”
NC State was a bit of a mystery to Oddo when he agreed to play football here. He had grown up in Wilmington, Del., and had never traveled more than 50 miles from home. But the coaches at NC State saw some film of Oddo playing in high school, and convinced him to take his game south.
Oddo experienced some culture shock when he arrived at NC State. “Those southern boys talked real slow,” he says. “I wanted to pull the words out of their mouths.”
But he also found a fair number of “Yankees” on the team, with nine kids from Pennsylvania and one kid from New Jersey joining him the freshman football team. “We had a lot in common,” he says. “I felt at home after about a week.”
Oddo says the players on the 1957 team were a tight-knit group that got better as the season went on. The NC State team, led by backs Dick Christy and Dick Hunter, lost only one game that year, against William & Mary. The game that stands out for Oddo was the contest against Duke. Both teams were undefeated and Duke was favored, but the game ended in a tie. “We were able to hang with them,” he says.
Other than a three-year stint selling insurance, Oddo has been a high school football coach since he graduated from NC State in 1959. He coached in Florida for three years before moving to East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C., in 1962. He has now been at Charlotte Catholic since 1973.
Oddo says his approach to football is simple: “Play hard, play clean, have fun.”
Football, Oddo says, mimics life in many ways. “You have highs and lows,” he says. “In life, it’s like that. You win, you lose, you learn to cope.”
Oddo says he doesn’t know how much longer he will coach, saying he takes it year-by-year. “But I still enjoy the kids and I still enjoy the coaches,” he says.
Oddo’s teammates will gather for dinner at Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant on Friday night. Oddo will join the crowd for lunch at the University Club on Saturday and then a tour of campus and the Murphy Center. They will be recognized at the football game against The Citadel as part of Military Appreciation Day – everyone on the 1957 team served in ROTC and half the team saw active military duty.
Oddo says he typically makes it to one NC State game each year, and says it’s too soon to tell what to expect from this year’s Wolfpack team.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” he says.