Football IQ gives Greg Olsen edge

CHARLOTTE – I had a good idea what his answer would be, but I had to ask.

So not long ago, I stopped head coach Ron Rivera in the hallway at Bank of America Stadium.

"Which player on the team is best suited to devise a game plan and coach a game?"

Rivera thought for a couple seconds.

"Greg Olsen," he answered.

Just as I suspected.

Rivera smirked before adding one more thing.

"He's a coach's kid."

I'm well aware.

Chris Olsen is Greg's father and was his football coach at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey.

Chris Olsen was also my gym and driver's education teacher (I graduated from Wayne Hills in 2007; Greg graduated in 2003.)

In his time as head coach from 1987-2012, Olsen's father transformed Wayne Hills football. The program went from mediocre to unbeatable. From 2002-11, Wayne Hills won eight state football championships. At one point, the team won 55 consecutive games.

This wildly successful program produced an astounding number of victories but few major college prospects. The brightest stars were the three Olsen boys – the eldest, Chris, Jr., who played quarterback at Virginia, the middle child Greg and the youngest Kevin, who is a redshirt freshman quarterback at Miami.

Greg, a nominee for Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior, was a supremely talented high school player. But his father's teams did not overwhelm the opposition with sheer talent. They won with a commitment to preparation and consistent execution.

That was the program's edge.

Greg didn't need that edge to succeed in high school. But that's where he first discovered it.

Having a football coach for a father meant Greg constantly absorbed the game from the time he was a water boy.

"He was always there," Chris said.

On Monday nights in junior high, Greg watched film with his father's coaching staff. After his high school games, Greg would spend Saturday morning critiquing the film with his father.

"Being young and learning the intricacies of what's expected – and that there's a lot that goes into it – I think that laid the foundation that allowed me to be coached by anyone and absorb any type of system," Greg said.

And it laid the foundation for a successful football career.

"It's like if your father was the president of a bank and you grow up to be a successful banker," Chris explained. "You're exposed to it at an early age, and it certainly gave him a leg up. And being a smart person on top of it doesn't hurt.

"Some people just don't get it. Greg always got it."

When he arrived at talent-rich Miami, Greg's football acumen played an instrumental role in his rise up the tight end depth chart.

"I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to just get by on being one of the best athletes. I wasn't one of the best athletes at my own position, let alone the entire team," he explained. "I knew I couldn't just show up and be better than a lot of guys. I had to try to find that edge, and for me, a lot of times that edge was cerebral. I always tried to know what to do, and that carries you a long way."


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