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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 01 2014

Bison's Olson grateful for opportunity to be a player again

FRISCO, Texas – The last North Dakota State football player to check into the Westin Stonebriar hotel in Frisco offered to carry the bag of a young daughter of a Bison assistant coach. Grant Olson was wearing a visor he used when he was a student assistant coach of sorts after hurting his knee.

But on Wednesday, he arrived at the host city of the Division I FCS national title game as a player again. He’s the Bison football equivalent of somebody having nine lives. And he wasn’t taking one minute for granted.

“It’s given me a renewed perspective,” Olson said. “I enjoy practice probably a little more than everybody else does now. Just having the pads on again has been a lot of fun.”

He had the pads on at a practice field adjacent to Toyota Stadium, as the Bison went through a 1 hour, 15 minute workout. The ACL he tore against Illinois State on Nov. 9 is still torn, and he’ll undergo surgery after the season.

But a few weeks of rehabilitation and ice resulted in his knee feeling well enough to play two plays in the semifinal win over New Hampshire on Dec. 21. He said he felt strong enough to play more, but the offensive set that the Wildcats ran was more conducive to a different Bison defensive look without Olson.

The two weeks off since have made him feel even better. He said the Bison coaches told him it looks like he’s moving better.

It’s still uncertain how much he’ll play Saturday against Towson University (Md.), but the power attack of the Tigers fits his style better than a spread attack.

“Well, OK, I can match up a lot better with that than the all-out air attack,” Olson said. “So, depending on what we need, hopefully I’ll get in a few more plays.”

Olson said he lost strength in his legs with the time off.

“One leg is smaller than the other,” he said. “You can physically see it,” he said.

On the other hand, the time off helped heal the other minor bumps and bruises that go hand-in-hand with playing linebacker.

“So some parts are better, some parts are a little worse,” he said.

Before leaving the lineup, Olson was the team’s leading tackler by such a margin that it took until last week before Carlton Littlejohn took the team lead. Littlejohn, who missed two games with injury, has 82 tackles. Olson is tied with safety Colten Heagle with 79.

Littlejohn moved from outside linebacker to Olson’s middle spot and is slated to start there against Towson.

“Whether I play or not is not necessarily the big thing,” Olson said. “Just being part of it has been a blessing that I’ve really enjoyed.”

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