By Adam Gore/Special to the Journal
NEW ORLEANS – One word best exemplifies Odie Armstrong’s road to becoming a world champion:
That’s what Armstrong said as he hugged his wife, Natalie, after the Arizona Rattlers defeated the Philadelphia Soul 72-54 on Friday night to win the Arena Football League championship in Arena Bowl XXV.
It was a victory that erased years of heartache and frustration from missed championship opportunities in high school, college and last year’s last-second Arena Bowl loss to Jacksonville.
“It feels amazing,” Armstrong said. “This is something I’ve been chasing since I was at Vardaman but for some reason it just seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. Now seeing this dream of being a champion finally become a reality … it’s unreal.”
The former Vardaman and ICCrunning back rushed for seven yards and a touchdown on four carries while hauling in two passes for nine yards, but his biggest play of the night came on special teams when he recovered a kickoff that led to the game-clinching touchdown.
“I got a good jump on the guy trying to block me and once I saw the ball come off the iron I knew it was our chance to put the game away and I wanted to be the guy to make the play,” said Armstrong.
“I’m proud of Odie,” said Arizona QB and game MVP Nick Davila. “We are roommates on the road, so it feels like we are family and knowing I’ve got a guy like Odie that has my back makes my job a lot easier.”
Armstrong is 11th amongst the AFL’s leading career rushers and is just 33 yards away from becoming one of a handful of fullbacks to surpass the 1,000-yard career rushing mark.
‘Odie is a beast’
“Odie is a beast in all aspects of the game when he’s on the field, but off the field you can’t find a better friend, husband, dad and role model. He’s truly one of the good guys of the game,” said Davila.
“I’ve had a lot of love and support from family and friends back home in North Mississippi over the years,” said Armstrong. “I want them to know they are a part of this. This championship is for everyone in Vardaman and at ICC because they helped make this dream a reality.”
Armstrong plans to return to Phoenix to celebrate the championship with his teammates before spending the off-season with his family in Oklahoma and Mississippi.