Many often wonder…where are they now?
Well, Ameritime Sports, Resource One® and all associated companies within Ameritime’s Integrated Financial Network® are pleased to provide that information to our readers with a series of verbal portraits featuring some of the most iconic local sports names in the area. Our fourth installment highlights former professional Football player and current Head Coach of the Festus Tigers, AJ Ofodile. From playing college ball at Mizzou, to the NFL, to a distinguished High School coaching career, football has been a fixture in Ofodile’s life… but there is more to this incredible story.
Coach Ofodile has had football running through his veins from an early age. Finding his passion while playing youth football led Ofodile down a path that ultimately took him to the highest level… the National Football League. Then, after reaching that ever-coveted NFL milestone, six years later a fork in the road of his football journey took him down a new path… coaching. Something he’s now done for the last two decades with no end in sight.
Ofodile began playing football in his Detroit neighborhood at a young age, eventually progressing to the East Side Raiders, an “older, more traditional” police athletic league organization that he would play for through High School.
“I didn’t start playing organized sports until I was probably about 11 years old,” Ofodile said. “My mom didn’t want me to play [football], but [I would] simulate my own football games in my head, running through the living room and down on the couch, those kinds of things. My mom worked and [a family friend] would keep us during the day. One time we went out to where the Raiders practiced and [they] signed me up; I was up and playing before my mom even knew.”
Attending football powerhouse Cass Technical High School, Ofodile ended up throwing for 1,012 yards with 12 TDs, ran for 435 yards and had 113 yards receiving in his final HS campaign, earning himself the title of Offensive MVP as a Senior. With a successful high school football career under his belt, Ofodile turned his attention forward: college football, giving him his first taste at the college recruiting process. Something he would be even more familiar with later in his career.
“Typically, if you’re a significant recruit, you have several different scholarship offers, usually from very profitable schools, and your outcome is going to be very situationally based,” Ofodile said. “At 17 years old, looking at all the things that I valued, I knew I wanted to play early, I knew I wanted to go someplace that was going to throw me the ball a lot.”
Ofodile made, in what he regards as, one of the “smartest choices [he had] ever made.” [Mizzou] had this high-level offensive outfit and was really way ahead of our time in terms of offensive football; all things considered, Mizzou was the best fit for me.”
Making the nine-hour journey from Detroit, MI to Columbia, MO at age 17, was no doubt a daunting task, but once Ofodile put on the Black and Gold jersey he thrived, playing for the Missouri Tigers from 1991-1993.
As a Freshman, he would become the starting Tight End, making an instant impact for the Tigers. Ofodile got better every year, with the ’93 season being the pinnacle, as he hauled in 55 catches for 589 yards and four scores. From 1991-1993 Ofodile hauled in 73 receptions for 851 yards and six touchdowns, proving he had what it takes to play at the next level.
After the conclusion of the ’93 season, Head Coach Bob Stull and his coaching staff were fired. Ofodile found himself faced with a difficult decision, play his Senior under new Head Coach Larry Smith or take the leap and enter the NFL draft.
“After our coaching staff was fired at the end of my Junior year [at Mizzou], and I didn’t really want to go through the process of playing for a new coaching staff in my Senior year, where everything is a rebuild, everyone is expendable,” Ofodile said. “Just kind of looking at my options, I put in a request to an NFL draft advisory board, and they told me they thought I’d be a middle-round draft pick. At the time, at 20 years old, I looked at that as a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so I decided to do the draft.”
Ofodile’s decision to join the draft would pay off as he was taken in the 5th round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. The ’94 Bills were coming off their seventh straight postseason and fourth straight Super Bowl appearance, but a 20-year-old Ofodile would find it difficult to find his place among the veteran Bills squad. “Being in that situation where I was way younger than everybody, probably not as mature as I needed to be, I struggled with a little bit of confidence,” Ofodile said.
After a year with the Bills, Ofodile would be traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995. He then landed with the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, which would be a turning point in his career. “I spent four years in Baltimore, matured in the process, and emerged physically and mentally where I needed to be.”
In his fourth year with the Ravens, Ofodile suffered an injury that would cut his NFL career short. “I had a significant knee injury that pretty much ended my career, which is typical—most people are going to end up with an injury or getting salaried out or aged out, that’s just kind of how it goes. It was a great experience, though. I made a lot of great friends, and once you get that experience, it’s something that you can draw on for the rest of your life.”
With his professional football career behind him, Ofodile found himself back in Columbia rehabbing his knee, unsure of what the next stop in his journey would be. After connecting with his old friend Barry Odom, who was the current head coach at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Ofodile found his football journey heading in a new direction. As fate would have it, Odom was a young Head Coach that was in need of an offensive coordinator, a challenge Ofodile was happy to take on.
“I thought I’d go to the NFL, make millions, and never have to work again, but that part didn’t happen,” Ofodile said. “I always had kind of dreamed of being a high school football coach—I thought it would be an enjoyable career.”
When Odom was offered an opportunity to be a Defensive Coordinator at Mizzou, he took the position and Ofodile took over as the Head Coach at Rockridge from 2003-2015. During Ofodile’s tenure the program reached new heights. Rock Bridge had 40 Division One players, and roughly 125 that signed. One of those signees being his son, who was an All American.
“[I spent] a really long stretch there, had a lot of good experiences, good memories, multiple District Championships, a trip to the State Championship, we were in the national rankings,” Ofodile said. “We had a really good run, ups and downs, and an incredibly tough schedule because we became independent.”
Odom, at that point the Head Football Coach at Mizzou, would call upon Ofodile once more, bringing him back to his Alma Mater to become Mizzou football’s Director of Recruiting from 2016-2017, WR coach in 2018, and TE coach in 2019.
“The timing was good: my son had just graduated high school the previous year, coaching college is tough, especially if you have a family,” Ofodile said. “My kids were all grown, they were in college, my daughter was actually going to graduate college, so it was just good timing for me. The opportunity to coach at an SEC school and never having to change my address was not something you could hope to happen every day, so I jumped on that opportunity.”
While at Mizzou, Ofodile helped bring on some of the biggest names in recent Mizzou football memory. His unique perspective gained by being a former recruit himself, gave him the upper hand in the overall recruiting process and the Tigers reaped the spoils of his expertise and hard work.
After Odom and his staff were fired in 2019, Ofodile once again found himself in a precarious situation that could take his football journey down several different roads.
“I had a couple of opportunities to stay at the college level at some smaller Division One schools, but I looked at the totality of everything: the lifestyle that it is coaching at the college level, the amount of control I have on my outcome, the impact that I have on the kids that I coach,” Ofodile said. “I weighed out being a Head Coach versus being an Assistant Coach, and the autonomy that being a High School coach provided me [won me over].”
Following a period of self-reflection, Odofile decided that he was best suited for coaching High School Football. With offers to become a head coach from numerous districts throughout the state, Ofodile found an opportunity he felt he could make the biggest impact that had all the tangibles necessary to build a great program.
“Festus was the best opportunity, in my opinion, to grow a program into what I’ve always dreamed of: a program where I could put my stamp on it and say, ‘Hey, as a legacy thing, this is the impact I had on this program, this community and these kids.’”
During his first year as Head Coach of the Festus Tigers, Ofodile did just that, leading the team to a District Title, a Conference Championship and an overall record of 10-2.
“I try to be a vocal encourager, but I also try to make sure that we have a program that allows those who are willing to work the opportunity to optimize their abilities,” Ofodile said. “I enjoy the opportunity to work in partnerships towards a common goal and helping young men develop holistically. Teaching and coaching have really helped me to understand the need to have a game plan.”
Now going into his third season as a Head Coach, it’s fair to say the program has faced some challenges, but that’s to be expected. It’s the program’s improvements off the field that allow you to win on the field, but those don’t happen overnight. From our vantage point those improvements are happening in a big way.
Ofodile’s journey has given him unique perspective on all things football, allowing him to help his players in a plethora of different ways. A perspective that you don’t find every day.
Ofodile’s sentiments about his working life carry into his finances, as well, as “things will not just take care of themselves, so it’s crucial to implement the best strategies possible in the relative window of time we all have.” Luckily for Ofodile, Ameritime and The Control Option Mindset, which offers Ameritime clients the option to control more of their wealth and cash flow through help from an integrated team of financial resources, have been able to assist him with doing so.
“In my own personal financial situation, the Control Option Mindset has been a game changer for me; it has allowed me to really understand the resources I have available to me and optimize their value,” Ofodile said. “[Ameritime] takes such a unique approach to looking at your long-term financial situation. It was just a really natural connection, and everything made a lot of sense to me.”
Ofodile finds that the strategic methods that Ameritime uses to help clients like him better manage their finances are similar to many of the strategies that he uses when coaching football, thinking creatively while working with others to be successful.
“As a football coach, especially as an offensive coach, I was very highly influenced by that group of coaches that was at [the University of] Missouri, how collaborative and how innovative they were, and so I’ve always tried to be that way in terms of everything I’ve done in coaching,” Ofodile said. “Using this analogy, [Ameritime] was the first thing like it that I have seen from financial planning. The goal is to view things pragmatically while still being willing to think outside the box to come up with a strategy that provides an advantage—hopefully, I am as innovative strategically as Ameritime has proven to be.”
Learn more about the financial success and stability that AJ has experienced through Ameritime and The Control Option® by visiting any of the helpful sites regarding the services we provide at:
Sports is an incredible journey, but life doesn’t end there. Reach out to those who know.