Dec/15/14 01:06 AM Filed in: Greg Olsen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tight end Greg Olsen is the Carolina Panthers 2014 Ed Block Courage Award winner, the team announced Friday. The award honors one player from each NFL team that shows courage on and off the field. Olsen was selected for the award in a vote by his teammates.
This season, Olsen has produced the best year of his career, breaking his own Panthers record for receiving yards by a tight end with a team-leading 850. His team-best 71 receptions are two short of his own Panthers record of 73 set in 2013. The performance has come while Olsen and his wife Kara are dealing with tremendous challenges off the field.
Olsen's son, TJ, was born in 2012 with a rare congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a severe underdevelopment of the left side of the heart. Since that time, TJ has had to undergo four separate heart surgeries, including two during the 2014 season.
Throughout portions of the 2014 season, Olsen has had to balance attending practice and meetings with sleeping at the hospital by TJ's side and being a father to his other children, Tate and Talbot, TJ's twin sister. The eight-year NFL veteran did so effectively, being named a team captain for the first time in his career, and emerging as one of the top tight ends in the NFL, ranking among the League leaders in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He has exhibited commitment and durability as well, having played in 123 consecutive games, a streak dating to his rookie year in 2007.
Off the field, Olsen and his family have started the HEARTestYard Initiative with Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. The program provides services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, free of charge, to families of babies affected by congenital heart disease.
The Ed Block Courage Award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian.
Recent winners of the Panthers' Ed Block Courage award include Ryan Kalil (2013), Thomas Davis (2011) and Jordan Gross (2010).