So was being a press secretary anything like
In the 1990s, Stephen Oddo, a shareholder rights
attorney at Robbins Arroyo in San Diego, worked
two jobs that bring to mind the power and glamour
of both Washington, D.C., and Hollywood. First, he
was press secretary to Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.);
then after getting his J.D., he was a sports agent. He
was Jerry Maguire before Jerry Maguire.
you see on TV?
“Not at all,” says Oddo. “I certainly provided
“That was my story in a nutshell,” says Oddo.
quotes to journalists, and I was quoted
occasionally in newspaper articles, but there
wasn’t ever the circumstance where I got up and
answered questions from multiple reporters.”
OK, what about Jerry Maguire Were there any
similarities between Oddo and Tom Cruise’s char-
acter in the 1996 hit film?
Here it is. After graduating with an English
degree from Santa Clara University, Oddo went on
to Northwestern University for a master’s in journalism. A reporting job at The Desert Sun in Palm
Springs led to his press secretary job in Washington,
D.C., in 1989.
“It was very unique to be on the other side of the
equation,” he recalls. “I was required to put out state-
ments for the congressman when anything signifi-
cant happened. ... But I also was responsible for put-
ting together newsletters to his constituents—which
wasn’t that different from writing stories, except
obviously I had control over editorial content.”
Oddo loved being in the nation’s capital. “You
really feel you have your finger on the pulse of the
nation. I walked by the Supreme Court every day. I
crossed the Capitol grounds to the office building
where my congressman was. That in and of itself is
kind of thrilling.”
Stephen J. Oddo
He Had Us at Hello
Stephen Oddo was Jerry Maguire before Jerry Maguire BY SUSAN G. HAUSER
So: Farewell, D.C.; hello, S.D.
The stint ended when his father told him he was
retiring soon from his political science profes-
sorship at University of San Diego; and if Oddo
wanted to take advantage of the school’s free
tuition for family, he needed to enroll immediately.
Oddo had been an athlete in high school, so in
1994 he and a partner launched a sports agency
and lived on hope for about five years—waiting for,
as he puts it, “the big name that was gonna put us
on the map.”
They found him: a San Diego native named Akili
Smith, who was turning heads as a star quarter-
back on the University of Oregon football team. An
intense courtship ensued. Oddo and his partner
would take the whole family out to dinner and sit
with them in the stands to watch Smith play.
“We wound up with an unsigned agreement
that he would sign with us as soon as the football
season was over,” Oddo recalls. NFL rules dictated
that athletes going out for the draft couldn’t sign
earlier. At season’s end, Oddo and his partner
treated the Smiths to another dinner.
“While we were at din-
ner he got three calls,”
says Oddo. “They were
from Steve Young, Warren
Moon and Troy Aikman, all
of them clients of Leigh
Steinberg—who at the
time was one of the top
football agents—all of
them telling him that he’d
be an idiot if he didn’t sign
with Leigh Steinberg. So
on Monday he signed with
Oddo has also worn a third hat: author. Six years
ago he self-published Avalanche: Lessons of Love,
in collaboration with his sister, Kris Ochoa-Keane.
The book details the March 1991 avalanche in
Canada’s Bugaboo Mountains that killed a group
of heli-skiers (including Ochoa-Keane’s husband of
almost 20 years), the subsequent legal battle, and
a widow’s struggles to work through grief and find
new meaning for her life.
“We thought it was a very important story to
tell,” he says. “I’m very proud of it.”
Life before the law
“While we were at dinner
he got three calls: Steve Young,
Warren Moon and Troy Aikman.”