Former Warhawk scores tryout with Jets


By Andrew Bayliss

When Lane Olson played football for UW-Whitewater during the 2010 season, he had 32 more tackles than anyone else on the team. Now, defensive players are struggling to tackle him.

After his final year as a Warhawk, Olson got an opportunity to play professionally in the Italian Football League.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Olson, 25, said. “I got paid to play football and travel all over Europe.”

While in Italy, he played defensive back and wide receiver. Olson’s transition to receiver went seamlessly, and he proceeded to score 17 touchdowns in 11 games for Rhinos Milano, while averaging over 24 yards-per-catch.

“In Italy, they’re only allowed three Americans per team, and they usually play both ways,” he said. “I played safety defensively, and they put me at receiver on offense. I ended up becoming better on that end.”

His success in the Italian league, coupled with his rare athleticism, was enough to land Olson an opportunity to try out at his new position for the New York Jets.

“We’re extremely excited for Lane and his opportunity,” Warhawks head coach Lance Leipold said. “He’s done a great job keeping himself in shape and going over to Italy to keep refining his skills.”

Olson entered the NFL draft during the year of the lockout, which made it more difficult for rookies to make a name for themselves, because teams had less time to scout and hold minicamps.

Despite his strong showing at UW-Madison’s Pro Day, where he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, bench-pressed 29 repetitions of 225 pounds and leaped to a 38.5-inch vertical,

Olson went undrafted as a safety.

Olson was unable to land a spot on an NFL roster that season, and he was put in a similar position this season.

Olson returned from Italy in late July, after a majority of tryouts and camps were held. He did not receive an invite to any team’s camp for two months, so Olson ended up with a job in finance at Northwestern Mutual in Waukesha.

“When I came back from Italy, I couldn’t get invited to a training camp,” he said. “Of course, as soon as I get a job, NFL teams started calling.”

Olson said the Jets called and liked what they saw from him in Italy and wanted to give him a tryout.

“When any player gets an opportunity to play football past their eligibility here at Whitewater, that’s something we’re very proud of,” Leipold said.

Olson said his boss has been understanding in letting him follow his dream of playing in the NFL. His tryout with the Jets started on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The Jets are looking at Olson as a wide receiver, but he said they like that he can play defense, too.

Sending players to the NFL is nothing new for NCAA Division-III football. Olson noted that wide receivers Cecil Shorts, of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Pierre Garcon, of theWashington Redskins, both came from D-III backgrounds.

“If you shine in Division-III, you will get your shot,” Olson said. “You just have to make the most of it.”