Heather Van Norman
The former track and field coach Heather Van Norman has had a lengthy and respectable career in athletics, but is better known for being the mother of the Louisiana-born National Football League (NFL) star Odell Beckham Jr. Born on 22nd April 1970 in Windom, Minnesota, USA, she’s affectionately nicknamed “Mama Bear” by fans of the footballer.
Heather attended Louisiana State University as a track runner, where she presumably met Odell’s father, Odell Beckham Sr., who was playing running back at the same time. In 1993, Heather ran for three national championship relay teams, and jointly won the outdoor and indoor 4 x 400m events, as well as the outdoor 4 x 100m relay.
In 1992, Heather discovered that she was expecting Odell Jr. while training for the Olympic trials. It is believed that the Minnesota native dropped out of training and dedicated the next few years to motherhood and becoming a homemaker; however, it’s important to note that she continued to win national titles from 1993 to 1995.
Later on, Heather returned to the athletics scene in a professional capacity, spending two years at Rice University in Houston, Texas, followed by four years as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. In 2002, she was named head coach at Tulane University, a position which she held until 2009. The student-athletes under Heather’s leadership excelled at the NCAA Mideast Regional appearances and NCAA Championships, a testament to Heather’s work ethic and discipline.
She then became the track and field coach of Nicholls State University. Rob Bernardi, the university’s Athletics Director, said at the time: ‘We are fortunate to be able to attract someone of Heather’s experience to Nicholls… Our student-athletes will benefit greatly from her knowledge and leadership.’ Heather stepped down from her position in June 2017, but we are unable to confirm if she is currently working, unemployed, or retired.
Apart from her work at the aforementioned universities, Heather previously coached 144 conference-nominated track runners as well as one All-American team. Unlike some other coaches who only focus on sports, Heather’s teams performed well in the classroom, with many of her team members making the Academic Honor Roll.
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The former University of Minnesota Freshman Track Athlete of the Year has one other child named Jasmyne, who prefers to steer clear of the spotlight. Odell Jr., however, is one of America’s most recognizable athletes, with his celebrity status getting him into the MET Gala and other high-profile events outside of sports.
According to Google, Odell Jr. has three other siblings: Summer Odalis, Kordell, and Sonny. Not much is known about his brothers and sisters, but it is believed that they are half-siblings born from his father’s relationship with another woman.
Odell Cornelious Beckham Jr. was born on 5th November 1992, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and also goes by his initials, OBJ. Prior to becoming an NFL sensation, Odell Jr. studied at Isidore Newman School, and was part of the basketball, football and track teams. Despite being a well-rounded athlete, Odell excelled at football, playing cornerback, running back, quarterback, and wide receiver.
During Odell Jr.’s senior year in high school, he and fellow footballer Cooper Manning made school history as the only two players to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season. In 2011, he was listed amongst The Advocate sport magazine’s Super Dozen, earned District 9-2A Offensive MVP honors, and made the Louisiana 2A All-State first-team.
Taking a page out of Heather’s book, Odell Jr. also performed well an jumping and sprinting events at Newman High, winning the silver medal in the 2010 Newman Invitational’s long jump event. The future celebrity was also a member of the 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m relay teams.
In his first year playing for LSU, Odell Jr. played in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, having debuted against the Oregon Ducks in September 2011. At the end of the season, he was named a freshman All-SEC selection, and finished second on the team. His sophomore and junior seasons went similarly well, as he and Jarvis Landry joined forces and were described as ‘one of the most productive wide receiver duos in college football’.
Following the success of his junior season, Odell Jr. entered the 2014 NFL Draft, and signed a four-year $15 million contract with the New York Giants as the 12th overall pick. Despite missing the first four games of the 2014 season due to a hamstring injury, Odell Jr. was named Rookie of the Year. ‘I was never fully healthy, I was just trying to manage it,’ the footballer said after the Pro Bowl game, sharing that he had actually suffered two injuries before the season.
Odell Jr. has come a long way since then: in 2015, he was voted to the cover of Madden NFL 16 and made history as the youngest player ever to feature so prominently in the magazine. He was subsequently ranked amongst the Top Ten NFL Players of 2016, signed a $95 million contract extension with the Giants, and was acquired by the Cleveland Browns until 2021. Since then, the athlete has played for the Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Ravens.
Regarding Odell Jr.’s private life, he’s long been considered one of sport’s most eligible bachelors, but avoided discussing his relationship status or similar topics until late 2019, when he was revealed to be dating Instagram model Lauren Wood. In November 2021, the couple revealed that they were expecting their first child, born three months later.
The wide receiver and Lauren, who have since broken up, make sure to co-parent amiably and work hard to maintain their child’s privacy. In late 2023, Odell Jr. was rumored to be dating socialite and reality star Kim Kardashian, who is several years his senior and shares four children with rapper Kanye West.
Odell Jr.’s net worth is estimated at close to $40 million, thanks to his outstanding sports career. His marketability and widespread appeal have also helped him land lucrative endorsements and partnerships, such as ad campaigns with Dunkin’ Donuts, Head & Shoulders, and Foot Locker.