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  • Grown-up Olson ready to choose new path for career

    Dec. 16, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Ben Olson is wiser. Maturity happens when you have a thousand doors slammed in your face or are cursed at on a regular basis. Don't forget the odd cup of mystery liquid thrown on you shortly after identifying yourself as a Mormon missionary.

    "I don't think there could be anything tougher mentally," said the nation's hottest college football prospect. "Definitely, your skin gets pretty thick."

    Karl Dorrell (right) might be able to land a recruit that will bring UCLA closer to Pete Carroll's USC Trojans. (Getty Images)
    That's part of the reason why Olson is more in control this time. He's 21, back from a two-year Mormon mission in Calgary. That's quite a change from 2002, when he was the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit coming out of Thousand Oaks High.

    Now: Older, wiser and essentially a five-star free agent eligible to sign with any school after redshirting his first year at Brigham Young in 2002. Seldom, if ever, has a case like Olson's popped up. Kids take Mormon missions all the time, but they usually do it before their college clock starts ticking or in the middle of their eligibility, usually returning to their original school.

    Not Olson, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound stud with a rocket for a left arm who officially announced this week what the recruiting world knew for months: He wasn't returning to Provo.

    NCAA rules essentially count military service or a mission as a transfer year, so Olson is free and clear to sign again.

    "It's probably as crazy, if not more crazy, than the first time," Olson said from his living room in this well-to-do Southern California suburb. "I thought more teams would be more hesitant about me being gone for two years. I've been amazed at all the interest I've gotten because I haven't played a down of college football yet."

    Technically, Olson is a five-star non-high school player, according to He is not rated as a high school player, ready to turn 22 in February. If lumped in with those high school players, though, recruiting expert Jeremy Crabtree said Olson would be up at the top.

    "The question is, what's he been doing with a football?" Crabtree said.

    The answer begins with a body that looks like it was chiseled about of marble. Since Olson returned from the mission, he has dedicated his life to refining his football talents. He took the first semester off, working out at a nearby training center to hone his skills. He throws every day preparing for the next big event in his life, the Feb. 2 signing day.

    "I honestly think I'll be a better player," Olson said. "I've played a lot of games in my mind. It's going to take some time. I'm not saying I'll step under center and be awesome. But through hard work, I'll be better than I ever was."

    That beats the downside of cold-calling Canadians about his faith. The day typically started at 10 a.m. and lasted until 9:30 p.m. The only football was maybe 10 minutes of throwing with a friend.

    "We believe that we have something that will help you in your life," Olson said. "We're not there to shove it down your throat."

    Oddly, Olson was criticized by some BYU fans this week for leaving. But who could blame him? The program has descended into mediocrity. Since he left BYU, the Cougars are 9-14. Coach Gary Crowton resigned Dec. 1. "It's kind of a funny message," Olson said. "The university that you choose wants to use you. For the things that you can bring to the table and vice versa, you want to use the university.


    "I'm looking for the place that will help me develop my skills as a player. In the meantime, let's win some games. Let's use each other."

    UCLA is the current favorite. Olson could commit as soon as this weekend. But schools are pulling out all the stops to land this rare talent. There have been additional visits to Arizona State and Cal. Steve Spurrier picked up the scent shortly after joining South Carolina and began recruiting Olson.

    "I'm interested," Olson said. "I'd love to talk to them."

    Oregon commissioned a faux comic book that has Olson leading the Ducks to the national championship game. Nicknamed "The Gunslinger" in the story, Olson has to take a visit to Eugene to get the other half of the comic and find out what happens.

    Understandably, Olson wants to play somewhere warm after tromping around Alberta. If he does stay home and pick UCLA, his presence could literally turn around the program. The Bruins have almost been reduced to agate type in Los Angeles since Pete Carroll arrived at Southern California.

    USC has won six in a row over the Bruins and Carroll has closed down the recruiting borders in Southern California.

    But in Olson's case, USC might have too many stars. Even if Heisman winner Matt Leinart leaves for the NFL, the Trojans are well stocked at quarterback with John David Booty and incoming recruit Mark Sanchez.

    "They're very young and I think they're seeing the effects of that this year," Olson said of the Bruins, who finished 6-5. "But I definitely think UCLA's going in the right direction. It's close to home. It's got a lot to offer."

    The winner of the Olson sweepstakes is getting an All-American kid it hopes will become an All-American player. In his final year at Thousand Oaks, Olson threw for 2,823 yards and 32 touchdowns.

    On a recent Sunday, he pulled up to his home in a 1955 Ford pickup that he has restored. Olson apologized for being late, sporting a small spaghetti sauce stain on his Oxford shirt. He had been eating a meal with his family at church.

    It sure didn't look like the world was coming to him -- again.

    "I'm just a lot more mature, not naïve as I once was," Olson said. "I'm relaxed, I'm in control. I was overwhelmed a bit coming out of high school. I'm the one making the decision, not questioning, 'What if I would have done this, what if I would have done that?'"

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    UCLA's Olson On A Record Roll
    by DJRamFan
    Bruins' QB takes charge of his 7-0 team

    Oct. 23, 2005

    PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - As a senior, Drew Olson has reached his comfort zone.

    "This is the most I've been at ease, in a good way, not being overly relaxed," Olson said after the No. 8 Bruins (4-0 Pac-10) ran their record to 7-0 with a 51-28 victory over Oregon State over the weekend.

    Olson has been on quite a roll, leading late comebacks three games in a row, then throwing for a school-record six touchdowns in a lopsided victory.

    He has thrown for 11 touchdowns in his past two games, and has 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions this year.

    "I just feel confident. I feel like my game has been getting to a point where it needs to be and where I expected it to be," he said.

    A week after he tied Cade McNown's UCLA mark by throwing five scoring passes in an overtime win at Washington State, Olson connected with tailback Maurice Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis for two touchdowns apiece, and hooked up with tight end Ryan Moya and Brandon Breazell for scores.

    While UCLA receivers often were wide open - Moya for a 48-yard TD and Drew for a 20-yarder - Olson had to be right on the money on other scoring plays.

    Olson, who finished 16-of-24 for 262 yards, hit Breazell with a perfectly thrown ball that the receiver caught over his shoulder in full stride for a 46-yarder that set the Bruins' record.

    On Drew's 43-yard touchdown catch, Olson rolled far to his right, pulled up and threw across the field to the other sideline. Drew, who had a step on the defender, caught the ball on the dead run and was off to the end zone.

    One of Lewis' two scoring catches came on a timed throw, where he sprinted into the end zone, finally turned after Olson already had lofted the ball to just the right spot, and jumped to grab it over a defender.

    "The game has slowed down for Drew. As long as he keeps doing what he's doing, I don't see us losing anytime soon," Lewis said.

    Olson, who seemed mostly mediocre as a passer and field general his first three years, has blossomed. He had knee surgery last January and it wasn't certain that he would be able to play this year.

    He missed spring practice while recuperating, then had to battle highly regarded newcomer Ben Olson (no relation) for the starting job and was finally named No. 1 only after Ben Olson broke a bone in his throwing hand late in fall camp.

    Although Ben Olson has long since recovered, he's been relegated to the bench by Drew Olson's play. Ben Olson finally got into his first game late in Saturday's one-sided win over Oregon State, throwing an incompletion.

    "Drew has played all the way through, from training camp to (the OSU game),"...
    -10-23-2005, 03:16 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Former UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden Dies
    by r8rh8rmike
    Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden dies
    By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
    Jun 5, 3:27 am EDT

    LOS ANGELES (AP)—John Wooden, college basketball’s gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99.

    The university said Wooden died Friday night of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been since May 26.

    Wooden remained beloved by many of his former players, several of whom visited him in recent days to say their goodbyes.

    Related Video Wooden's legacy Wooden's legacy


    Among them was Bill Walton, whose voice caught as he spoke of the man he hailed as a teacher first and a coach second.

    “He’s the greatest,” Walton said the night before Wooden’s death. “We love him.”

    Jamaal Wilkes said he recognized what he called “that little glint” in Wooden’s pale blue eyes.

    During his second visit Wednesday night, Wilkes asked Wooden if he recognized him.

    “His glasses fogged up, and he had to clean his glasses,” Wilkes said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I remember you, now go sit down.”’

    Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre and current UCLA coach Ben Howland were among Wooden’s final visitors.

    “I just enjoyed him and the twinkle in his eye,” Howland said, noting Wooden told a few jokes from his hospital bed. “I’m just the steward of this program. It’s always going to be his program.”

    Jim Harrick is the only coach in the post-Wooden era at UCLA to win a national championship. When the Bruins reached the 1995 Final Four in Seattle, Harrick repeatedly urged Wooden to attend. He had stopped going after his wife died 10 years earlier.

    “You don’t know how stubborn he was,” Harrick said by phone from Orange County, Calif. “Finally, he did come, and it was a tremendous thrill.”

    With his signature rolled-up game program in hand, Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.

    Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game’s greatest players such as Walton and Lew Alcindor—later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    “It’s kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through UCLA.

    “He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He...
    -06-05-2010, 08:52 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Spurrier excited about SEC revival with Gamecocks
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 28, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- You really can't believe he's 60. On a random offseason weekday, Steve Spurrier is bounding around his office like a kid in Toys R Us.

    South Carolina fans hope Steve Spurrier can do for them what he did for Florida. (Getty Images)
    "Have you seen Cocky?" Spurrier says, flipping on the switch of a two-foot replica of the South Carolina mascot that begins dancing across a ledge.

    "I was lucky on the hair genes," he remarks after a reference to his perfectly coifed hair helmet that looks like it has been preserved since he won the Heisman in 1966 -- as a dashing senior.

    You simply can't believe he's 60. A doctor checked Spurrier's heart last year during his year off from football. It looked better than in 2003, his last year with the Washington Redskins. What was he doing different? Relaxing. Well, that and a new interest in the StairMaster.

    "It gets you huffin' and puffin'," says the smiling man who used to eat quarterbacks for lunch, even when they followed instructions.

    Lunch was served again in the spring. Spurrier, you see, reads everything. Not many people know that about him. Newspapers, TV, Internet. He likes to keep track of the condition of the program.

    After a scrimmage, quarterbacks Blake Mitchell and Antonio Heffner were asked how they thought they did. "Pretty good," they were basically quoted as saying.

    "You call that, 'pretty good?'" he shot back next time the three came together.

    Spurrier sat down his quarterbacks and showed them a film of Florida's 54-17 victory at South Carolina in 2001. Rex Grossman threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gators scored the last 44 points of the game.

    "It was a game we never punted," Spurrier said. "Now that's pretty good, not hitting one out of three. You guys have to understand what playing well means."

    This is the Spur Dog in full. At an age when a lot of men are counting the days to retirement, Spurrier is counting the days toward the opener in his new job.

    "Sometimes as a young coach in your 30s, you're trying to act like you're 45," Spurrier said. "When you get to be above 60 or so, you want to act like you're 45. Health-wise I feel like I can do more than I did at 45. Hopefully my mind is still as good as it was then.

    "I think it is."

    Consider that a warning shot. The college football world is on the edge of its cleats, waiting for The Tao of Steve to return to the game. That opener against Central Florida is now three days away. National television is moving...
    -08-29-2005, 05:07 PM
  • RamsFanSam
    A Message to those who think McCollum's too old:
    by RamsFanSam
    Linebacker, 59, to Play College Ball

    Email this Story

    Aug 22, 4:40 PM (ET)


    ALPINE, Texas (AP) - Mike Flynt was drinking beer and swapping stories with some old football buddies a few months ago when he brought up the biggest regret of his life: Getting kicked off the college team before his senior year.

    So, one of his pals said, why not do something about it?

    Most 59-year-olds would have laughed. Flynt's only concern was if he was eligible.

    Finding out he was, Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. His comeback peaked Wednesday with the coach saying he's made the Division III team's roster. He could be in action as soon as Sept. 1.

    Flynt is giving new meaning to being a college senior. After all, he's a grandfather and a card-carrying member of AARP. He's eight years older than his coach and has two kids older than any of his teammates.

    "I think it was Carl Yastrzemski who used to say, 'How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?' I'd be in my late 20s or early 30s, because that's how I feel," said Flynt, who has made a living out of physical fitness. "That's been my approach to this whole thing. I feel that good. I'm just going to find out if I can perform and make a contribution to the team."

    A longtime strength and conditioning coach at Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M, he's spent the last several years selling the Powerbase training system he invented. Clients include school systems and the military. His colorful life story includes being the son of a Battle of the Bulge survivor and having dabbled in gold mines and oil wells - successfully.

    Flynt's life was supposed to be slowing down this fall. With his youngest child starting at the University of Tennessee, he and Eileen, his wife of 35 years, are planning to take advantage of being empty-nesters for the first time.

    Instead, they've moved to this remote patch of West Texas so Flynt can mend an old wound and, he hopes, inspire others.

    He became emotional discussing his goal of "helping a bunch of young men to make up for those guys that I let down." Then he laughed about the reality that fellow Baby Boomers are getting the most out of his comeback.

    "People are kind of in awe. They keep comparing me to themselves and where they are physically," he said. "If I can help anyone out by what I'm doing, then it's all worth it."

    Flynt's position is still being determined, but he used to play linebacker. Wherever he lines up, he'll likely become the oldest player in college football history. Neither the NCAA or NAIA keeps such a statistic, but research hasn't turned up anyone older than...
    -08-22-2007, 04:50 PM
  • RamsFan16
    Washington has tough act to follow
    by RamsFan16
    Washington has tough act to follow
    By Bill Coats

    J.D. Washington is trying to make the jump from Division II Morehouse College to the Rams.
    (Marlene Karas/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    Though he was working on his latest film in New Orleans, actor Denzel Washington hustled back to Beverly Hills a couple of weekends ago so that he could sit with the oldest of his four children and ... wait for the phone to ring?

    But this wasn't just any call. John David Washington, a record-setting running back at NCAA Division II Morehouse College who goes by "J.D.," had been told he might get a shot at the NFL. And when the Rams called shortly after the draft, offering J.D. a free-agent contract and a chance, Denzel led a raucous celebration.

    It was no act, J.D. assured, even for a world-renowned actor whose two Oscar statues loomed nearby.

    "I believe he and my mother were more excited than I was," he said. "They were running all up and down the hallways in the house, calling everybody. They're very excited."

    J.D. Washington is among 19 rookies who will get their first taste of the NFL during a three-day minicamp beginning this morning at Rams Park. Two practices are scheduled for today and Sunday, with a final workout set for Monday. All sessions are closed to the public.

    Washington, 5 feet 9 and 190 pounds, holds Morehouse records for rushing yards in a game (242), season (1,198) and career (3,699). He was the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's offensive player of the week six times and an all-conference selection after his senior season.

    The chasm between Division II and the NFL is wide and deep, he acknowledged. "Everything's going to be so much faster, from the terminology to the play on the field," he said. "I've got to pick it up fast. I'm ready for it, though."

    Washington, 21, described his leading assets as "my vision and quickness. I try to make people miss as much as possible. That's basically how I play."

    Undrafted free agents face long odds, but Washington noted that his father started at the bottom, too. "It's a parallel, exactly," J.D. said. "He started with TV and then he got his big leap."

    Denzel Washington's career began to blossom during a six-year run on the television drama "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s. After turning to movies, he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1989 for "Glory" and was named best actor in 2001 for "Training Day."

    J.D. said that at times it's difficult to fully grasp his father's fame. "Honestly, you forget about how big he is," he said. "When we're in our house, it's just family. I've got my mom,...
    -05-13-2006, 07:31 AM