An Olsen family tradition

Following Greg (Bears TE) and Chris (Former UVa QB), 2013 QB Kevin turning heads

Originally Published: May 6, 2011
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN Recruiting

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- To understand Kevin Olsen, the rising junior quarterback from Wayne Hills, N.J., who's already drawing scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, know this: Football surrounds him.

It has since before Olsen can remember. The game is in his blood.

Olsen's brothers, Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen and former Virginia quarterback Chris Olsen, delivered Kevin a crash course in football. The kid went everywhere with them, from recruiting visits to college games and NFL workouts.

[+] EnlargeKevin Olsen
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comClass of 2013 QB Kevin Olsen already has an offer from Florida State, among others.
"He didn't miss much," said their mother, Sue Olsen.

By age 6, Kevin was diving over couches in the office of Greg Schiano, who began recruiting Kevin's brothers even before the Rutgers coach could unpack his boxes after arriving nearly 10 years ago.

Fitting, then, that Olsen staged the latest act of his ascension to prominence Sunday at Rutgers Stadium, shining at the Nike Football Training Camp. Rules prohibit Schiano and other coaches from watching such events; rest assured, though, they know plenty about Olsen.

The 6-foot-3, 196-pound quarterback operated efficiently. He stood out in drills that included Rutgers pledge Blake Rankin of Bloomsburg, Pa., and Olsen plays with a smoothness that figures to place him near the top of all quarterbacks in the class of 2013.

And no one, especially not his father, appears surprised.

The elder Chris Olsen, a high school coach in New Jersey for 36 years, has spent the past quarter century at perennial North Jersey power Wayne Hills, coaching all three of his sons. Kevin is living up to the legacy of brothers Greg, one of the nation's top recruits in 2003, and Chris, heralded as a quarterback one year prior.

"When I was little," Kevin said, "they were everything. I still look up to them."

Chris and Greg signed with Notre Dame, but Chris left the school for Virginia after one season, and Greg transferred to Miami before ever suiting up with the Fighting Irish.

It just wasn't the right fit, according to Chris. The experience left Chris with a unique perspective from which to offer recruiting advice to his brother.

"Don't get wrapped up in the name," he said. "Don't get wrapped in Southern Cal or Ohio State. Get wrapped up in a school where you think the offense fits you and where the coaches actually want you -- where you're not just a number."

Kevin said he leans on Greg, the Bears' first-round draft pick in 2007, and Chris for advice on a variety of football-related topics. Greg provides suggestions on his diet and training. Chris covers the technical aspects of playing quarterback.

As a sophomore in his first season as the starting quarterback, Kevin directed Wayne Hills to a second straight state championship. He completed 103 of 171 passes for 1,484 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Was it surprising that he could fare so well immediately?

"No, because it's Kevin," Wayne Hills lineman Joey Lane said. "You don't get a lot of guys like Kevin Olsen. Most guys need time to learn. Kevin came right in, knew everything and just did it."

Age and experience hardly apply with Kevin. It's more about instincts, his father said.

"He understands the game well," the coach said. "A lot of kids play the position of quarterback. Kevin is a quarterback."

He understands the game well. A lot of kids play the position of quarterback. Kevin is a quarterback.

-- Chris Olsen, Wayne Hills coach and Kevin's father
In addition to Florida State, East Carolina and Central Florida told Kevin he's earned a scholarship. Others are sure to follow. Although Kevin says he's not ready to dive full time into recruiting, he has prepared for this for a decade. Kevin spent time in the locker rooms at Virginia around the likes of Heath Miller and Chris Long during his brother's time in Charlottesville.

"The list goes on and on at Miami," brother Chris said. "He's always learned if he acts their age, they'll respect him. I think he's done a great job of that. He's had a chance to meet a lot of people that 16-year-olds just don't get to meet. He's never been awestruck.

"He's always tried to be confident and mature and say to himself, 'Hey, listen, I can be just like these guys.'"

In Chicago, where both of Kevin's brothers live, the family developed a friendship with Bears QB Jay Cutler, who befriended Kevin. Occasionally, they'll talk before a weekend of big games for both quarterbacks.

So, you see, Kevin is playing with the deck stacked in his favor. Of course, it takes more than a good hand to succeed as an elite quarterback.

"He had to take advantage of it," Chris said. "A lot of kids would just like to stay in and play video games. But he was always with us when he went on spring break, working on football. Anybody who's been around him can see that he's very mature.

"He takes coaching. He doesn't whine or pout or talk back. He grew up in a household where none of that stuff mattered."

Kevin said he's far from a finished product. His footwork, in particular, needs improvement, he said. The day before he attended the NFTC at Rutgers, Kevin attended the Elite 11 regional camp at Penn State.

Expectations for Kevin at Wayne Hills, considering the school's tradition and his early success, figure to skyrocket over the next two years. But there's no reason to worry. He's ready for it.

"I've been around a lot of good players," Chris said, "and I've never really seen anything like him as a 16-year-old sophomore. He doesn't think of it as pressure. At the end of the day, he doesn't think about it at all. He just goes out and does what comes naturally to him.

"It's what makes Kevin who he is."

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com. Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman