All in the family
By Susan Miller Degnan
Aug 30, 2004

( - Labor Day Weekend will be quite a thrill for Sue, Chris and Kevin Olsen, not to mention their football favorites Christian and Greg Olsen -- Christian, the sophomore backup quarterback at University of Virginia, and Greg, a redshirt freshman tight end at the University of Miami.

Mom Sue, dad Chris and 9-year-old son Kevin will begin the weekend Friday night by watching dad's high school football team, Wayne Hills (N.J.) High, scrimmage.

The next morning, they'll drive to Philadelphia to watch Virginia play Temple at noon. Then, they'll drive home, wake up when it's dark and take a 7 a.m. flight to Miami to watch Greg make his college debut against Florida State at 8 p.m. Sept. 6 in the Orange Bowl.

''Pretty exciting, wouldn't you say?'' said Sue Olsen, a physical education teacher and former softball and girls' basketball coach at Manchester High in Haledon, N.J. ``From Day 1, they accepted Greg with open arms.''

Greg Olsen, who originally signed with Notre Dame but arrived at UM last year just in time to begin fall classes, has dazzled his coaches with such exceptional play that they openly gush. To get a feel for how good 6-6, 254-pound Olsen is, consider that he was one of three finalists for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in 2002.

The other finalists: UM quarterback Kyle Wright, who won the award, and Florida quarterback Chris Leak.

Olsen is completely healed from a torn labrum he sustained in his right shoulder last October and is slated to back up 6-6, 251-pound senior starter Kevin Everett. But expect Olsen to push Everett hard for the starting spot.


''Oh, man. He's going to be one of the best tight ends to ever play here,'' Wright said. 'He just catches on to things so quick. If you tell him, `This is the way you're supposed to run a route,' he picks up on it immediately. And he catches anything you throw.''

Said left tackle Eric Winston: ``He catches everything in sight -- even when he's not open.''

Said middle linebacker Jon Beason: ``He's fearless.''

Said coach Larry Coker: ``He's physical. He runs good routes. He's tough. He catches the ball extremely well. He's an excellent blocker. Man, you just don't see redshirt freshmen doing the things he's doing.''

Olsen, who also will serve as UM's long snapper, said he has never been happier. He signed with Notre Dame to be with Christian because the two are extremely close. Coached by their father, they played together in high school. When Christian knew Greg needed to transfer for the sake of his career, he got his release and headed for the place he dreamed of playing all along.

The brothers' teams will meet Nov. 13 at Virginia, but Greg said he has no second thoughts about his decision.


''No doubt my best decision ever,'' said Olsen, who scored a 1210 on his SAT and is waiting to declare his major. ``I'm in a place where I'm comfortable now. The people I'm surrounded with are great. They care about the players. They care about what's going on in your life.

``Notre Dame is a great program -- they've won in the past. I just think I fit in better here.''

Olsen's speed (4.58 in the 40 last spring), soft hands, strong physical presence and desire to be a good student -- ''My studies are real important to me,'' he said -- haven't precluded his yearning to improve on the football field.

''I still make a lot of mistakes -- mental mistakes, little intricacies of the offense that a lot of people on the outside don't see,'' he said. ``You end up on the wrong spot and maybe the ball is a little behind you, and people might think it's a bad throw but it's not.

``I just want to do anything I can do to help this team win.''

Greg's father has no doubt his son will do that and more.

''If you're the type of player Greg is, and you have his type of aspirations,'' Chris Olsen said, ``UM is the place to be. His size, his strength, how he catches the ball and understands the game . . . We're lucky in that God gave him a lot of ability.''

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