By Ted Fleming
Greg Olsen – Tight End, #88
Hometown: Wayne, NJ
College: Miami, FL
Greg Olsen recently became the proud father of twins, a son named T.J. and a daughter, Talbot. But 18 weeks into his wife Kara’s pregnancy, the couple found out that T.J. had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that affects between on and four babies for every 10,000 live births.
The soon-to-be newborn suffered from an undeveloped left ventricle and aorta and would require not one, but three surgeries after birth. The first one was the most extensive and dangerous, and you might have excused Olsen if his mind was elsewhere rather than on the football field.
T.J. came through the initial procedure with doctors very hopeful, but it was the support Greg got from teammates, his owner Jerry Richardson and well wishes from all corners of the country that helped him play on at his usual high level.
Through the first six weeks of the season the Panthers’ tight end is second on the team in receptions and yards with 26 and 324, respectively, and has a touchdown, something wide receiver Steve Smith does not. The leader on the team, by the way, is Brandon LaFell with two.
As a rookie Olsen played in 14 of 16 games for the Bears after they selected him in the first round (31st overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft. Since then he has appeared in every regular season contest making him one of the most dependable players in the league.
After four years in the Windy City, Chicago traded him to the Carolina for a 2012 third-round draft choice and it could be one of the more unheralded moves the now departed Marty Hurney made before being fired as general manager on Monday.
Hurney saw Olsen as the Panthers’ tight end of the future and made sure he was going to stick around by signing him to a 4-year contract extension two days after the trade was consummated. He will make $3 million this year, $3.75 million next and $5.25 million base in 2014 and 2015, a bargain by any standard.
Olsen entered the draft after his junior year at Miami (FL) where he was a three-year letter winner playing in 33 games with 26 starts and averaged 14-yards a catch (87 receptions for 1,215 yards and six touchdowns). He started the final 24 games of his Hurricanes’ career earning first-team and honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in each of those seasons.
The New Jersey native had an impressive high school career as well and was rated third overall on ESPN’s list of 100 players nationally. Olsen was named USA Today first-team All-American as a senior in 2002 and was one of three finalists for Gatorade National Player of the Year.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.