Republished from the Columbia Missourian
COLUMBIA — Like most football players, Rock Bridge wide receiver Alex Ofodile addresses his coach simply as “Coach.” But, he admits, he occasionally lets another title slip.
The sophomore is in the middle of his first season under his father, A.J. Ofodile, the Bruins’ varsity head coach.
“It’s not that much different, to be honest,” Alex Ofodile said. “He does a good job of separating (football) from when we go home.”
While Alex Ofodile said he feels no pressure from his family to be a star on the field, A.J. Ofodile said he thinks the conditions add a little to his son’s burden to play well.
“For me and him both, it’s a situation where you’re always gonna have people that question the integrity of the situation, so there’s always extra pressure on him to perform,” he said. “Also, having a dad that played professionally, I think there’s that pressure on him to be a guy who’s a professional-caliber performer, even though he’s only 15 years old … Sometimes that can be a lot of weight. So, I think my eyes naturally gravitate towards him, unfortunately with a little more scrutiny than I would with other 15-year-olds.”
A former Missouri Tiger, A.J. Ofodile was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 1994 NFL draft. He would later play for the Baltimore Ravens. Alex Ofodile said his heritage makes his ultimate goal of playing professionally a bit more tangible.
“I’ve got the genetics for it,” said the lanky 6-foot-3 wideout.
He has used those oversized genes to become one of the Bruins’ main threats in scoring situations.
“His role is kind of symbiotic with (junior receiver) Zach Reuter,” A.J. Ofodile said. “What they give us is two 6’3″ guys that can jump. In the past, you spread (former 6’4″ Bruin) Aron White out, and everybody knows all of a sudden we’re going to go up to him. With Alex and Zach, there’s one on each side, and we don’t mind going to each one of them interchangeably. Having two of those guys and also two of those guys who are young and going to come back for us, that’s exciting.”
Alex Ofodile has accounted for two touchdowns and 257 receiving yards, both good for second on the team behind Reuter. A.J. Ofodile is happy with his son’s production thus far.
“I think he’s doing good in some areas,” he said. “He’s obviously young. He’s gotta work in some areas too. I think the best thing he’s done is when we call his number, he’s made plays. He’s caught the ball when we threw it to him. He’s ran good routes. He’s been competitive as a blocker. So I’ve been real happy with the development there.”
Alex Ofodile returned the compliments. He says his dad has a fatherly role with other members of the program.
“Yeah, big time,” he said. “I think he has made a difference for a bunch of people coming through the program. Almost some guys are like brothers to me.”
Along with extra brothers comes some extra brotherly ribbing.
“Kenny James is number one. He always jokes about it. ‘Go and tell your dad this.’ ‘Go and tell your dad that.’ ‘Don’t tell your dad this,'” Alex Ofodile said.
Alex Ofodile is probably used to it. He said his relationship with his father is highlighted by a continuous stream of jokes. A.J. Ofodile made similar remarks.
“Tons of jokes,” he said. “There’s always somebody getting talked about, there’s always something we’re laughing about. I think comedy is the number one shared activity. Eating’s probably number two.”
Both Ofodiles named video games as another source of father-son bonding, namely the NCAA Football series. A.J. Ofodile claimed to be the superior button masher. Alex Ofodile cried foul.
“He won’t even play me anymore,” he said.
While the elder Ofodile still says, without hesitation, that he would beat out his son in a jump ball, the 6-foot-6 former tight end sees a few similarities between he and his son’s play.
“When I go back and look at film, he does some things like me,” A.J. Ofodile said. “Ever since he was even just walking, not even 2 years old yet, he could catch a ball. You’d throw the ball to him, he’d catch it. You’d have to sit in the hall with him for hours and catch the ball, throw it back, catch the ball, throw it back. He could always do that, and I think I was the same way as a kid.”
That’s not to say they’re exact replicas.
“He’s a different athlete,” A.J. Ofodile said. “Even in basketball, he’s more of a guard, perimeter kind of athlete, I was always more of a post kind of athlete. Same thing (in football), he’s more of a receiver, speed, quickness athlete, and I was a tight end. I was always considered fast and athletic for a big person, but he has a little more of that small guy athleticism.”
Alex Ofodile will put that speed to the test Friday against undefeated Hickman High School. He said his father hasn’t shown signs of stress this week, especially compared to the week before the season opener. Regardless of how A.J. Ofodile has prepared for the rivalry matchup, he seems to have the playbook on fatherhood down pat.
“There’s a fine line in between breaching that father-son relationship,” he said. “I feel like that relationship should be — and not that coaching shouldn’t be — but I feel like that relationship should be positive. It should be encouraging. Yes, there should be some standards and some things like that, but when you’ve a got a good kid, who stays out of trouble and does what you ask him to do, I don’t want football to become a negative.
“Just because I have to correct you on the football field, I don’t want that to turn into ‘I’m not proud of you. I’m not satisfied with you as a person.’ I don’t want his production on the field to become the main source of affirmation. You catch a hundred balls, you catch none, you’re the best receiver to ever play the game or you sit on the bench and you watch, it doesn’t change how I feel. It doesn’t change how proud I am, ” A.J. Ofodile said.