Many kids dream of being the starting quarterback on a varsity football team as a senior. Odarius Sellers has the chance to do just that for the Marshall Mavericks but his path to that point has been anything but the way he would have ever dreamed.
"It is a phenomenal story, a sad story, but a family story that I hope will turn out to be a great fairytale happy ending," Marshall head coach Claude Mathis said.
On April 29, a year after losing his father, Sellers' younger brother, O'Terrius Sellers, was shot and murdered. His mother, Denita N. Sellers, received a call telling her about the tragedy. She then went to the crime scene where she found her son's body lying in the grass of a yard in Monroe, Louisiana.
In order to get a fresh start, the Sellers left Louisiana and landed in Marshall.
"I feel like it's a better opportunity to be able to breathe a little bit more," Denita said. "I love it. The community has been wonderful to me."
Odarius made the move to Marshall first where he moved in with Nick Lewis, who coached him at Carroll High School in Monroe, and helps out with Marshall's coaching staff.
"I knew it was a better opportunity for me, a bigger program and I knew I could come in here and play and having him (Lewis) on staff, I knew I'd have lots of opportunities," Odarius said.
"I think the community has really reached out to him and really reached out to his mom and tried to let them know if they need anything, they're here for them," Mathis said. "I also think his teammates have put their arms around him and everything in making sure he's not alone. They've invited him to different things where he can go and be part of a team. They've done a great job of making him feel like he's at home."
Odarius said football has been important in the healing process.
"It has played a big role," he added. "It's been good. It's relieving. Playing football helps me keep my mind off that."
The senior quarterback has had a lot of success in the game. Last season, as a junior at Carroll High School, he led his Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and two rounds deep into the playoffs.
"I had like 17 touchdown passes and like seven rushing," Seller said, quietly, not wanting to brag. "(I was) First Team All-District MVP."
The thing he's most proud of about that season was it was the first time he got to play on the same team as O'Terrius.
"That's the happiest I've ever been playing with him," Odarius recalls. "I couldn't wait to play with him and he couldn't wait to play with me."
"It was very excited to see my boys on the same field together," Denita said. "It wasn't my first time to see two of my kids on the same field but to see them play together was wonderful."
O'Terrius was a freshman defensive back last season, and the two brothers often went back and forth in friendly competition and trash talk.
"He was always getting you going," Odarius said. He was always hyped. We were always like, 'I'm better than you. When I get to high school, I'll start.'"
"I'd always walk through house and say, 'Y'all hush,'" Denita added.
"I'd throw it to his side and he'd say, 'I bet you won't throw it over here again,' and I'd throw it over there again and nine times out 10, he'd pick it off," Odarius continued.
Another change the move to Marshall brings is Odarius' jersey number as we'll switch from No. 3 to No. 12, his brother's number.
"It feels good to wear 12 and play for him knowing he wore it," Odarius said. "I get to dedicate it to him now and play for him."
Last season, that number was worn by Marshall quarterback Hunter Herrington, who has been sidelined due to injury as a senior.
"I'm telling you right now, it was tough losing Hunter," Mathis said. "That is a major loss. Then you get blessed with OD and you get blessed with J.J. (Green). We have two quarterbacks who have to pick up the slack because we lost a very good quarterback. So yes, it's a blessing in disguise. We all pray. We pray very hard and we always hope God answers our prayers and this one right here, He answered."
Mathis said Sellers has room for improvement but he has high expectations for his gunslinger.
"He's a quiet leader," Mathis said of Odarius. "I think he's going to come to the point where he's going to be a little more vocal but he's still feeling his way out because he's not trying to step on anybody's toes. He knows we've got other seniors who have been here a while but at the same time, it's not about stepping on anybody's toes. It's about being a leader and I think that's something he can be and eventually he's going to have to be a little more vocal sooner or later but I tell you right now, he's leading by example."
Mathis added the coaches have worked a lot with Odarius.
"Jake Griedl has done a phenomenal job with him," Mathis said. "He's learned the reads. He's learned the progression. He knows where to go with the ball now. He's learned when to tuck it and run it. Coach Griedl has done a great job developing him.
"His demeanor about grasping the offense has gotten a lot better," Mathis continued. "I just think his strength right now is being a quiet leader because he doesn't say a lot but when it comes down to it, those feet will get him what he needs. You've got to be careful how you play him because you get up field if you want to. You can blitz him if you want to but sooner or later, he's going to be going right by you for 6."
"They're great coaches," Odarius added. "They're going to make sure we do what we've got to do and be where we need to be.
"It's a big role playing quarterback at a 5A school and I know that," Odarius offered. "I've got to learn a lot of stuff, all kinds of stuff."
The senior quarterback said he also enjoys working with his teammates.
"They're pretty good," he said of his teammates. "They're some real good athletes and I'm happy to play with them. I've got some big offensive linemen. I know they're going to block and I'll be able to do what I do because they're going to give me time to do what I need to do."
The next chapter in Odarius' story is just beginning as he his Mavericks prepare for the 2017 season.
Odarius has high sky high expectations – a state championship.
"I've never played in one," he said. "I've got one year left so I want to make the best of it."
It would be hard to write a better fairytale ending than that.
"It's been a bumpy road but we're going to get there," Denita said.