Odie Armstrong came close, but never won a championship during his playing days at Vardaman High School, Itawamba Community College or Northwest Oklahoma State.
After the Arizona Rattlers’ 48-39 win over the Philadelphia Soul (12-6) in ArenaBowl XXVI in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, Armstrong is now the owner of back-to-back world championships.
“It feels amazing,” Armstrong said during the post-game celebration. “I wouldn’t want to be here with another group of guys. We have been blessed to be here three years straight and to win two-straight championships. I’m honored to be a part of a great organization and blessed to be able to represent Vardaman and ICC by bringing another championship back to North Mississippi.”
Armstrong, who lettered at ICC in 2002, rushed for two-yards on two carries and had a nine-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.
“They were keying on Odie all game long, so we couldn’t get him in the mix as much as we wanted to,” said Arizona head coach Kevin Guy. “When he did get in the end zone, it got called back on a questionable holding call, but Odie played an extremely physical game and did a great job giving Nick (Davila) time to throw.”
The Vardaman native also hauled in a pass after it was deflected by a Soul defensive lineman and scrambled for eight yards to help set up the difference-making touchdown.
“My guy wasn’t rushing so I had my head on a swivel,” Armstrong said about the play. “I saw the ball in the air and caught it to keep the drive alive and we went on to score to go up two possessions. It was a big play, but it was just one play of an overall great team effort that made this happen.”
Davila went 20-of-29 for 315 yards and six touchdown passes while Rod Windsor and Maurice Purify each had a pair of TD receptions as Arizona (15-3) became the first team since the 1996 Tampa Bay Storm to successfully defend an Arena Football League (AFL) title.
Philadelphia QB Dan Raudabaugh was 31-of-51 with 306 yards and four touchdowns.
The Rattlers defeated the Soul 72-54 in ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans last season after losing a last-second heartbreaker 73-70 in ArenaBowl XXIV to the Jacksonville Sharks in Arizona.
The former ICC star wrapped up the first year of a two-year contract he signed with the Rattlers after last year’s title run.
“Odie is a big part of our team,” Guy commented. “He is a well-respected leader amongst the team and is a fan favorite in Arizona. He has been a big key to all the success we’ve had over the past three seasons and we look forward to that success continuing in the future.”
Armstrong ranks amongst the AFL’s all-time career rushing leaders with 1,131 yards rushing (9th) and 73 rushing touchdowns (8th) on 328 carries (11th).
“I’m thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with throughout my career,” said the 31 year old Armstrong. “Arizona has been great to me and my family all these years. I look forward to what the future holds and enjoying this championship for a little while and then it’s back to business getting ready to try to three-peat.”
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