Playing in the National Football League is a dream of many young football players. Only a few people are able to achieve that dream. Craig O’Dear was one of those young men who dreamed of playing in the NFL. In high school, he was a football, basketball, and track star. He attended college on a football scholarship and was a track athlete at the collegiate level, as well.
He was a farm boy with big dreams. Craig was an accomplished athlete entering high school. The school only offered a basketball program, and there was no football program. Craig’s father, a member of the school board, and other local leaders decided to start a football program. Coach Pat Wozniak was hired as the first football coach. Wozniak formed a team by including top basketball players and other athletes. With a team comprising of basketball players and farm boys who had never played organized sports, Wozniak led the team to a 9-0 record in their first year, acknowledging the efforts of the young and confident athlete, Craig O’Dear.
Craig’s success in football, basketball, and track in high school led to a football scholarship at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where O’Dear played football and ran track while pursuing an engineering education. Craig graduated with an engineering degree in 1979.
After completing his engineering degree, he attended the Vanderbilt University Law School on a Patrick Wilson Scholarship. It was one of the largest law scholarships in the country. He graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1982.
Road to Becoming One of America’s Top Lawyers
Craig was born on June 26, 1957, in northeast Missouri. His father, H.C. O’Dear, was a farmer, and his mother, Martha Lou O’Dear, was a school teacher. He spent his childhood on a hog farm south of Lewistown and completed his high school education from Highland High School in Ewing, Missouri.
His law career began with Stinson Mag & Fizzell Law Firm. Craig’s confidence and efficiency were admired, and within two years, he was able to defend some major clients in the court. Craig defended Hallmark Cards, Inc., during the Hyatt Collapse. He also represented Harmon Industries of Blue Springs, and he became the lead national defense counsel for the company. He has served as a lead trial counsel in several other high-profile cases, including the litigation involving World Wrestling Entertainment arising out of the tragic death of WWE wrestler Owen Hart.
Currently, Craig is a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. It is a law firm with its origins in St. Louis, Missouri. He joined the firm in 1988. He played a major role in founding and building the Kansas City office, and became a partner in 1990. He is a corporate law litigator and legal advisor. Craig’s expertise includes intellectual property litigation, product liability litigation, commercial litigation, and class action lawsuits. His legal talent and accomplishments have been recognized by the Kansas City Business Journal as “Best of the Bar” in business and product liability litigation multiple times.
In addition to this, Craig has been consistently recognized in the Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA, Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers, since 2006. He was also featured in the Top 500 Leading Litigators in America list by Lawdragon magazine. He has long been a supporter of the Midwest Innocence Project, serving for several years on the advisory board. The organization works to free prison inmates who are factually innocent. It plays a pivotal role in educating the people around the country about how thousands of innocent people are sent to prison and are severely punished for the crime they did not even commit.
In addition to being a successful corporate trial lawyer, Craig also ran for the United States Senate against Democrat incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Josh Hawley, in January 2018. He ran as an independent candidate with the endorsement of a Denver-based national movement of independents called Unite America. Even though he lost the election in November 2018, Craig became recognized as a leader in the independent movement and received praise for running an innovative campaign. As of May 2020, Craig lives in Kansas City with his wife, Stephanie. They have three children, a 24-year-old daughter, Sydney, two sons including 22-year-old Cullen and 19-year-old Cormac.