Daily Egyptian

Player profiles: OT Austin Olsen is a rare breed

SIU+senior+offensive+lineman+Austin+Olsen+poses+for+a+photograph+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+25%2C+2017%2C+outside+of+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Brian+Mu%C3%B1oz+%7C+%40BrianMMunoz%29
SIU senior offensive lineman Austin Olsen poses for a photograph Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, outside of Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

SIU senior offensive lineman Austin Olsen poses for a photograph Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, outside of Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

SIU senior offensive lineman Austin Olsen poses for a photograph Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, outside of Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Ryan Demer

Anchoring the offensive line week in and out, senior Austin Olsen readies to start his 29th consecutive game Saturday for Southern at left tackle as the embodiment of “protector.”

Offensive tackle is widely considered as one of the most difficult positions to effectively play on the gridiron. To be good, an OT must have an adequate mix of speed, size, strength and agility. The rare greats excel in all of the aforementioned attributes, but add durability and awareness to the mix.

Saluki head coach Nick Hill sees these attributes in Olsen.

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“He’s a tough kid and a great senior leader for us,” Hill said. “Anytime that you can play the tackle position in this league for three consecutive years means you’re a really good football player.”

Cool and composed, Olsen defines himself as a quiet guy who keeps to himself most of the time.

Growing up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Olsen molded his life around sports. Throughout his high school career, he was a member of the football, baseball and basketball teams.

“I liked playing all different sports to keep me busy and out of trouble,” the senior offensive lineman said. “It really made me an all-around athlete where I can do a lot of things by not zoning in on one sport and position.”

In 2011, Olsen was a member of the Lincoln-Way North Phoenix baseball team that won the state championship in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association summer tournament.

“That was a lot of fun,” Olsen said. “I was wishing we got one for football; it happens, we just kept working hard and it didn’t turn out the way I’d like it.”

As a two-way player on the field in high school, Olsen was not only pounding defenders in the trenches, but also shredding opposing defenses. He recorded 80 tackles and 12 sacks in his two seasons.

Olsen claimed several accolades during his high school football career. He was named All-Conference in his two seasons playing on both sides of the ball to go along with an All-Area selection and All-State honorable mention his senior year.

Olsen was everywhere on the field, even manning the long snapper position for the Phoenix. As he moved onto collegiate play, he clearly needed to adapt to one side of the ball.

“It takes so much out of you at this next level,” Olsen said. “Especially as a lineman, you need to put 100 percent in or you’re going to get beat.”

He was recruited by other schools in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but SIU felt like home to him.

“It was a great place, the atmosphere around here was fun,” Olsen said. “I liked all the other guys they were bringing in from my recruiting class. We became brothers right away.”

As a four-year honor roll student in high school, Olsen strives for academic excellence. With a major in exercise science, he plans to work in therapy training. Initially, he wanted to work in physical therapy, but after doing some research he held off on that.

He began starting his sophomore year and earned an MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week nod after anchoring a monster rushing game by the Salukis. He also earned a preseason All-MVFC selection this year and ended last season with an honorable selection. However, he isn’t too worried about his accolades.

“It feels nice to get some recognition for hard work, but I’d like to see more people get it,” Olsen said. “That means we’re winning more; I just want to win games and make it to the playoffs.”

Even as a senior, he continues to work on the little things at the position like footwork and hands to enhance his and the teams game.

Every week Olsen is in store for a battle in the trenches, where there is no room for error. There are plenty of guys in the conference that bring the physicality every game.

“That’s something I love,” Olsen said. “I wouldn’t want to be in any other conference because it brings that will, that want, that ‘I’m going to dominate you.’”

Olsen has yet to make the playoffs in his career, making it his top priority for the season. He said he is willing to sacrifice personally earning All-Conference honors if it’s for the good of the team.

With his focus on the playoffs this season, attending combines to showcase his skills in hopes of earning a chance to be chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft is not his immediate concern.

“If the opportunity to play in the NFL comes around I would be more than happy to do that,” he said. “Right now, I’d just like to keep getting better every day to make our offense better.”

Olsen gets his next chance to improve on an already impressive career and help lead SIU to its first playoff berth of his tenure when the Salukis face second-place MVFC opponent, No. 6 South Dakota Saturday.

Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE 

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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