As a wiry, tow-headed 10-year-old, Kevin Olsen would occasionally toss a football back and forth with his big brother, Greg — now a prominent NFL tight end with the Carolina Panthers — during visits at University of Miami’s Greentree Practice Field.
When he was 12, Kevin, who by then had shot up to 5-3 as a quarterback for the Wayne, N.J., Police Athletic League, was with Greg in Miami Beach when he was selected late in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears in spring 2007.
“I’m really proud of him,” young Kevin said of Greg just days before that draft. “He never gives up, and every day he went out and tried his hardest. He can run. He can catch. He can do it all. Watching him get drafted is going to be really cool.”
Nearly six years later, little Kevin has blossomed into his own stardom, a 6-3, 195-pound signal-caller who will sign a Letter of Intent on Feb. 6 to join the next generation of Hurricanes.
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“I just really feel coach [Al] Golden has the program getting back to the way Miami was when my brother was there, and before then — producing first-round picks and Heisman Trophy winners and all that good stuff,” said Olsen, who chose UM over Wisconsin.
The 18-year-old Olsen, rated a four-star quarterback by major recruiting services, is ranked 10th nationally among pro-style quarterbacks by rivals.com, with 247Sports rating him seventh.
Olsen broke the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in the 2012 opener when he cut inside, then was tackled, during a run down the sideline. Renowned orthopedic surgeon Robert Anderson of Charlotte, N.C., inserted a screw in the foot to repair the break, and Olsen sat out until the final two games. He completed 39 of 77 passes for 448 yards in his two-and-a-half games, with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown.
As a junior, he threw for 1,686 yards and 20 touchdowns, with five picks.
During his official visit to the Coral Gables campus last weekend, Olsen spent as much time as possible trying to convincing fellow recruits to choose UM on National Signing Day.
His recruiting pitch: “If you watch the games, Miami starts a lot of young guys. Eventually — I think in a couple years — they’ll be back to winning conference championships and going to all those big-time bowls. If you want to be a part of that, it’s a decision you’ll have to make.”
Olsen’s arrival at Miami will be delayed until after he graduates Wayne Hills High this spring. In a perfect scenario, he and his father, Chris, agreed, he’d be enrolled this semester and able to participate in spring practice. But New Jersey academic requirements necessitated his staying to complete a fourth year of English in place of taking an online course.
No worries, he indicated. Olsen said he plans to spend next year redshirting and learning under senior quarterback Stephen Morris. But as Morris and Olsen discovered a week ago Saturday, they will be learning under a new offensive coordinator after Jedd Fisch announced he was leaving for the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kevin Olsen’s commitment has not wavered.
“Al Golden is the main guy,” said Chris, Kevin’s storied high school coach at Wayne Hills, where he won eight state titles during a 26-year coaching career that ended last month with his retirement. “Al is somebody that, as a parent, you feel very good having your son around. He does a good job of molding kids into young men, and he does it the right way — no shortcuts. The football part will take care of itself.
“We certainly had a good relationship with Jedd and really liked him. And we certainly anticipate the next guy being very similar — whoever it may be.”
UM filled the opening by hiring James Coley away from Florida State on Thursday.
Because of Chris Olsen’s coaching career and New Jersey roots, the Olsens go way back with Jersey-native Golden. Christian Olsen, at 29 the oldest Olsen brother, played as a quarterback for Virginia during Golden’s tenure there as defensive coordinator.
Kevin said he recalls going to the Virginia-Miami games “wearing a jersey that was half Virginia and half Miami.
“Those were my favorite games.”
His mother, Susan, a retired high school physical education teacher and softball coach, described Kevin as “a cross between Greg and Christian. He’s very even-keeled, very steady. He can be outgoing, and he’s very comfortable around adults because he’s grown up with a lot of coaches around him.”
She said it was Kevin who wrote and presented his father with a farewell speech at the recent football banquet. “He just blew everyone away,” Susan Olsen said. “When it was all done, he stood there real calm, and there were tears rolling down our faces. More than 300 people gave him a standing ovation.
“I said to Christian and Greg, ‘I wish you could have been there to see your brother.’ Sometimes he’s quiet and you wish you could get more out of him, just like every other kid, but when it’s time for him to express himself, he brings people to their feet.”
On the football field, recruiting analysts say Olsen is a smart, savvy signal-caller who has a good arm, though not as strong as Morris’, and will put his players in position to do the work.
“Olsen is a Ken Dorsey type — smart,” said Charles Fishbein, a recruiting analyst for Elite Scouting Services. “He comes from a football family so he knows the game real well, he’s got good mechanics and he’s accurate.”
Tom Luginbill, national director of recruiting for ESPN, praised Olsen as “a very polished kid” and said, “Obviously he’s been very well-groomed and has a high ceiling for development.
“The college weight room will help him — his frame will fill out and he’ll get stronger. He’s a really good ball handler and understands timing and anticipation and the things that go along with innate qualities a quarterback has to have.”
Greg Olsen came to watch his younger brother practice at Wayne Hills High last summer before Kevin left to compete, eventually faring well, at ESPN’s Elite 11 skills competition camp in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Greg made it a point to tell The Record newspaper of Hackensack, N.J., that though he couldn’t wait for Kevin to play at Miami, it was Kevin’s decision, not Greg’s, to play for UM.
“It was the only fair way to do it,” Greg Olsen told The Record. “I had my chance to pick a college and now it’s his time. … He had to make the decision that was best for him, and I think he did.”