Much-traveled QB finding his home in Charlotte
Under different circumstances, last weekend might have been tipped the scales toward dreadful for Kevin Olsen.
The Charlotte junior quarterback was firmly mediocre in completing 14 of 28 passes for 123 yards in the 49ers' 37-19 loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday. He threw his first two interceptions of the season and left the game early because of cramps. It was not the best of days.
But then Sunday rolled around, and about 10 miles from where he played for the 49ers, he saw his big brother Greg haul in five passes for the Carolina Panthers, including a career-long 78-yard touchdown pass.
And the perspective Kevin Olsen gained from speaking with his All-Pro, tight end brother and his longtime high school coach father, Chris, made all the difference in helping him move on.
“Some days you’re going to be good, some days you’re going to be bad,” Olsen said. “You just try to take them and move forward. It’s really not something you can dwell on.”
The 21-year-old gained his perspective by the most difficult of routes. As a highly recruited quarterback in Wayne Hills, N.J., he chose to follow the footsteps of Greg, 10 years his senior, to Miami (Fla.).
He redshirted his freshman year in 2013 and appeared headed toward the Hurricanes’ starting job, but left Miami in September 2014 after he was reportedly suspended multiple times for breaking team rules, failing a drug test, and finally, charged with DUI and possession of a fake or stolen identification.
He transferred to Towson, an FCS school, but was thrown off the team in March 2015 for violating team rules, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Olsen only talks about his transgressions in general terms.
“I guess it was just a combination of being childish and young,” he said. “I was young and kind of didn’t think anything was going to happen to me. I kind of played that role and stuff got out of my control after a while.
“It was all stuff I brought upon myself. It was nobody’s fault. There was nobody to blame, nobody to point fingers at. There wasn’t a bad break or anything like that. It was all self-imposed.”
Olsen finally landed at Riverside (Calif.) City College, where he played his first down of college football — at the junior college level. In one season there, Olsen completed 56% of his passes in throwing for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He also caught the eye of Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert, who realized the Olsen family connections might help him in luring someone he acknowledged was a risky recruit.
For Olsen, it was a chance to start over, albeit at a school in its football infancy. Charlotte has had a football program for just four years, and is in only its second season of FBS competition.
“The biggest thing is to give him a second opportunity in coming here,” Lambert told the Charlotte Observer. “We think Kevin’s ready to make the next move to take this opportunity, otherwise we wouldn’t have signed him.
“He’s been to a lot of different places and there’s no question that this is his last chance. Things haven’t gone his way before, but he’s been good since he got here. He’s got a good base around him and he’s really taken to the guys around him.”
Olsen had to beat out four other quarterbacks to win the 49ers starting job, and his performance in the loss to Eastern Michigan last week didn’t exactly tighten his grasp on the slot. He battled a strained right (throwing) shoulder suffered one game earlier, though, and the aforementioned cramps.
“I really like Kevin,” Lambert said at his weekly news conference, before acknowledging Olsen’s shoulder was not completely healthy.
“I like where he is, I like the way he’s fitting with our team. He’s got to continue to grow and continue to get better and continue to stay within the system and stay within himself.”
It helps when there’s family nearby for Olsen to both talk to and strategize gameplans with. He gathers with his parents and brother Greg 3-4 times a week since they all live in the same city now, he said, and talks to his famous NFL-playing brother daily.
“We’re probably best friends,” Kevin said of his relationship with both Greg and eldest brother, Chris Jr. “It’s kind of awesome having him here and having the relationship we have.”
And as he learned this week, it helps in every way.
Above: Kevin Olsen (Courtesy Sam Roberts/FreezeFrame)