October 29, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kaedyn Odermann is at home between the lines.

53 ⅓ wide and 120 yards long. Sideline to sideline, goalpost to goalpost.

The aforementioned 120 wasn’t a typo, either. Because, when you talk about a wide receiver with a skillset like the 6’4” Odermann? It would be a mistake to limit it to the part of the field where he does his scoring.

He’s comfortable there, whether those lines are chalked down in the temporary, washable angles of a first-grade flag football field, sprayed onto the grass with the poetic toxicity of an aerosol can hissing out white promises of fall’s approach, or a permanent part of the recently installed field turf at his home field of Millard West.

He has lived within the confines of those dimensions for much of his young life, but he is never confined by them.

True to his craft, and like many good wide receivers before him, Odermann’s route takes him all over. Come Friday he may be running a slant towards the end zone with the game on the line, but on Monday, you’ll likely see him making a hard cut directly into a math classroom with a smile on his face.

This summer he made a quick out-route to the East Coast for football camps.

“I went to Georgetown, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. One thing I enjoyed about the recruiting process was finally being noticed by coaches after all the hard work behind the scenes. It was also great learning little things from each camp to add to my game,” he says, smart enough to know the origin of the phrase ‘Go west, young man’ and smart enough to do the opposite when opportunity comes calling.

Throughout the whole offseason tour, he kept coming into contact with the staff at Harvard.

“Being all the way on the East Coast, it’s hard for them to be perfectly aware of the talent of the Midwest. So, communication started with me signing up for their camp and emailing my position coach. I sent over my film and he said they were impressed with what they saw, even with my injuries taking away some games.”

He came back to Nebraska exhausted, accomplished, and with a mailbox full of correspondences bearing that famous crimson shield and the monogram “H.”

“I received a postcard or a letter from every coach on the [Harvard] staff, and this really set in as a reality for me,” Odermann says. “I realized how big of an opportunity this was to be able to complete my education at such a great school while continuing the game I love.”

Ask the defensive backs in the state: if you give him an opening, Odermann won’t squander the chance.

He committed to play football for Harvard this summer, his present meeting his future in the kind of youthful alchemy that you won’t find on the elemental charts in the classes that Odermann is currently acing.

“What drew me to the football program was mainly the winning tradition, as well as head coach Tim Murphy being there for so long. He is truly a legendary coach with a record of 174-75 all time. He alone has nine Ivy League championships. It was the great staff and great history of the program that drew me in.”

To say nothing of the academics; attending classes in the gorgeous on-campus architecture of a school whose alumni include eight presidents, from Founding Father John Adams to Barack Obama.

“I know football is what I’ll be doing for the next few years, but that only lasts so long. The education lasts forever and that is the priority.”

Never the type to rest on his ivy-wreathed laurels, Odermann once again found himself back at home: between the lines. On the field.

His commitment now secure, he doesn’t have his eyes on the East Coast or the daunting academics that come with signing your name on the dotted line next to the monograph bearing the eighth letter of the alphabet and all that it entails.

He is looking straight ahead.

That means trying to finish what he started, what he began all those years ago when he was learning how to cut and catch and shift and spin. Back when it was just his scrawny legs, his flapping flags blowing behind him, and his dad sending him deep on a fly route in their backyard.

Those passes stopped flying in 2009, but Odermann didn’t.

It’s been nearly a decade since authorities found his father, Michael, on a county road about a football field’s length from his truck. Dead from a hunting accident, when Kaedyn was just old enough to feel the lead-heavy grief on his 7-year-old frame; remember his smile. Remember his passion for the game and the kind of high-beam energy he brought with him into every room.

He looks like his father, he is told by family members and friends alike. That same quick smile; that same liquid metal passion for football that can mold a young man’s heart like a hammer on a forge.

So this fall, with high expectations on the field and the joyful toil of the willing academic opened before him in spiral notebooks and cursor-blinking laptops, he hopes to win big in the Big O before he heads out to make a new home between another set of lines.

With Harvard ahead and the memory of his father at his side: Odermann plans on going long. Only this time, he may just keep on running.


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This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Kaedyn Odermann against wall