By Neal Johnson
Just a few weeks ago, former Warhawk safety Lane Olson was working a job in finance at Northwestern Mutual in Waukesha, Wis.
Come January, he won’t be sitting behind a desk anymore.
After trying out for the New York Jets on Tuesday, Olson was offered a future contract to join the team in January.
“I’m truly blessed,” Olson said. “[I] still got a lot of work to do [and] a lot of things to prove. Keep the door open, I’m on Cloud Nine right now.”
After exhausting his eligibility at UW-W and winning the Divison-III National Championship in 2010, Olson entered the 2011 NFL Draft. He showed off his athleticism for NFL scouts at his pro-day in Madison, Wis. where he ran a 4.3 second 40-yard dash, pumped out 29 repetitions on the bench press and leapt for a 38.5 inch vertical.
Olson, a Racine, Wis. native, was expected to be selected toward the end of the draft, perhaps in the seventh round, but never got the call.
“I was projected to go in the seventh round in some mock drafts,” he said. “The media talked me up a little bit. It hit me hard when I didn’t make it, but I was just glad for the opportunity.”
After waiting the entire weekend of the NFL Draft for a phone call, Olson was forced to begin his wait for a phone call from a team for a training camp invite.
With no interest from NFL clubs, Olson took his talents to Italy, where he played for Rhinos Milano of the IFL–but his new team wanted him to play more than just safety. Olson played both ways for Rhinos Milano, playing wide receiver as well as safety. He scored 17 touchdowns in 11 games and averaged 24 yards per catch at receiver. The position change proved beneficial, as the Jets plan to use him at his new position.
“It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “I got paid to play football and travel all over Europe.”
Warhawks head coach Lance Leipold attributed work ethic to how Olson ended up a New York Jet.
“[Signing with the Jets] shows his dedication, passion and work ethic,” Leipold said. “He never gave up his dream, I really admire that.”
Olson isn’t the only ’Hawks football player to make it to the NFL in recent years. This past summer, former ’Hawks quarterback Matt Blanchard was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears. Olson said he believes that his time at UW-W helped prepare him for the NFL.
“Coaching-wise [UW-W] has some of the best coaches in the country,” he said. “They run [the program] like it’s one of the top colleges in the country.”
Despite missing invites to training camps in both the 2011 and 2012 offseason, Olson never had any doubts that he had the talent to one day play in the NFL.
“I didn’t have any doubts that I could, I just wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity,” Olson said.
Leipold said for more players in the program to get an opportunity like Olson, hard work is key.
“Find one small thing to get better at today,” Leipold said. “You find something to get better at, then you maximize your abilities. If we maximize our abilities, and give our best effort, those are things that will allow the Lane Olson’s to get opportunities.”
Zach Hicks contributed to this article.
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