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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 21 2012

Discipline in early years set tone in development of Bison linebacker Grant Olson

Fargo - He seemingly was always the kid with the earliest curfew, which in a suburban Twin Cities environment was not easy to handle for Grant Olson. He was usually the first to leave a friend’s house while playing video games at night.

At an early age, he was handed a shovel to take care of the snow in the driveway. If there was another chore to do, it didn’t wait until tomorrow.

Those were the parameters that Lee and Betty Olson required from their two sons, perhaps a result of Lee’s West Point education and discipline.

“I guess that’s who I am and how I was raised,” Grant said. “I know we’d sit down or be in a car ride and at the time I thought he was just talking about nonsense. Now that I look back, I see how right he was about everything.”

The beneficiary of his parents being right about everything is North Dakota State football, which has the middle linebacker that any Division I Football Championship Subdivision school would kill for.

As a junior, he is a team captain. As the man in the middle, he is responsible for many of the on-field defensive calls, and NDSU couldn’t have found a more knowledgeable player. Bison coaches say they saw that on Olson’s recruiting visit when he was a senior at Wayzata High School and they wanted to sign him, regardless if he wasn’t considered big or fast enough.

“I was never the most athletic kid,” Grant said. “Coaches talk about the eye test where you look at a guy and try and judge how good of an athlete he is. Based on things like that – my 40 time and bench press – I probably wouldn’t get much of a look. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do on the field.”

Olson said the University of Minnesota told him if he were 6-feet-2, they would have offered him a scholarship. He’s slightly over 6-foot – and he said he thanks the lord every day he’s not any taller.

A spiritual young man, he’s always thankful. He’s thankful for last season’s national title. He’s thankful for the opportunity to help at ShareHouse, which provides chemical dependency treatment services. He was a mentor for a 9-year-old boy in a domestic violence shelter for women last spring.

“Many boys with moms in treatment don’t have positive role models,” said Julie McCroskey, program director at ShareHouse. “The mom said Grant was great, very respectful and engaged with her son. The boy always looked forward to spending time with him. He was just a nice young man, and to donate his time like that is so appreciated.”

Olson is thankful for always being part of winning teams, dating back to youth football. Wayzata won a Minnesota large-school state championship his junior year.

Perhaps he was allowed to stay out later after that title.

“My wife and I were a little stricter than some other parents in a suburban setting,” Lee Olson said. “I talked to both of my sons: What’s your priority? If you want to succeed in college and sports at the high school level, rest is equally important as work. You’re not going to be ready for school tomorrow if you’re out until 11 at night. That’s not going to work.”

Lee says it’s a product of him and Betty’s small-town Minnesota work ethic. He grew up in Clara City, she in Plainville.

After two games, he leads the team in tackles with 16, including an active nine stops on the big stage at Colorado State. On a defensive unit that has stars all over the place, he’s arguably the most important player on the field.

“I read a ton of books on leadership,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “Go to Barnes & Noble, get one of those books and then watch Grant Olson. He’s top shelf.”

During the recruiting process, it was Bohl who told Olson that he’ll come to NDSU as a boy and leave as a man. The transformation of maturity didn’t take long.

Olson wouldn’t mind being a coach once school is done. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for some program to start recruiting him now.

“The fact is, football is going to be over some day, and I know that’s something that a lot of NFL and college players struggle with,” he said. “It’s important to me that I can move on and I’m OK with that, because there’s a lot more to life than football at the end of the day.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia