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Former Bishop Gorman star expected to be top NFL draft pick

Brent Browner has a name for him: Old soul.

He believes if you’re looking for someone who can be the face of an NFL franchise, someone with the right attitude and character, then Rome Odunze is the choice.

“He taps into all of those things,” said Browner, the coach at Bishop Gorman. “He’ll have the same values an organization has.”

Odunze was a star receiver for the Gaels and the University of Washington. He’s destined to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.

Many believe he could be selected in the first 10 picks. He’s that special in a draft packed with special receivers.

No Washington wide receiver has ever been chosen higher than ninth overall. Odunze, 21, has a chance to eclipse that mark.

Great work ethic

Browner coached the Gaels’ defensive backs when Odunze was on the roster. Browner witnessed Odunze’s talent on a daily basis. The work ethic, the speed, the route running.

Bishop Gorman coaches challenge such players this way: If you’re supposedly the fastest guy on the team, you should win every conditioning drill. Odunze took it to heart and did.

“He had that quality you’re looking for in a leader,” Browner said. “He just got it. When he was here, it was as if he was already playing college. Midway through college, it was like he was a professional. When he gets to the NFL, he’ll be a pro from Day 1.”

Odunze said his introduction to sports came in elementary school, when he and classmates would play a game: Whoever ran and touched the fence and got back first was considered the quickest kid on the playground.

Guess who won?

He patterns his game after Raiders star wide receiver Davante Adams. He’s enamored with Adams’ ability to get open and haul in passes from a variety of angles. Odunze, at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, wants to be that kind of player in the NFL. He wants to be great. He also doesn’t lack for confidence.

Who does he think is the best receiver in this draft class?

“Me,” Odunze said. “I think my versatility will win on the field. I’ve shown all my skills, that they can translate to the NFL at a high level. Different facets of the game, who I am as a person, who I will be in a locker room and the community. All are A-plus.”

He was asked at the scouting combine what event should be added to the workouts. Odunze said a video game circuit and not for relaxation. Instead, to test one’s cognitive skills and whose reactions are fastest.

“If you’re not in the top five,” Odunze said, “you’re automatically cut.”

There was a time when he was younger that some wanted him to play defensive end but Browner said “cooler heads prevailed.” It also wasn’t as if Odunze showed up at Bishop Gorman and became an instant star.

He played freshman ball. Played some on the junior varsity.

Iron sharpens iron. It’s what Bishop Gorman coaches preach to their players. So as Odunze went through the program, he improved daily when matching up against college-type athletes in the secondary. It was a win-win for everyone.

Some lofty goals

“I’ve always been a competitor,” Odunze said. “I’m a student of the game, always willing to learn and understand there is room for improvement, regardless of where I am in my career.”

And yet he has set some lofty goals for himself.

“I think a successful career would be ending in the Hall of Fame,” Odunze said. “I want to go at least 10 years and be one of the best to ever play the game.”

He’ll probably settle for being a first-round pick — maybe even a top-10 selection — for now. Maybe one day being the face of a franchise. Those who know him best expect nothing less.

Not bad for a kid who once touched the fence first and got back before anyone else.

Contact Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on X.

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