By Kent Larsen
Will Best-in-Nation Prep QB Serve Mission?
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA -- LDS youth Ben Olson, considered by some the
best prep quarterback in the US, is facing the decision that every serious
LDS high school athlete must face: whether or not, and when, to serve an LDS
mission. In fact, Olson has researched the consequences, "No quarterback has
gone on a mission, come back and really done anything in college football,"
he says. "I'd be the one to change that."
Olson told the Los Angeles Times that he had researched the performance of
returned missionary quarterbacks, aand hadn't found anyone who had made the
grade. While some analysts may dispute Olson's claim (the Salt Lake Tribune
suggests that BYU's Brandon Doman may be the first), he isn't the only
person to question the effect of a mission on an athletic career. And most
LDS athletes report a struggle to get back in shape physically and mentally
following a mission.
But Olsen does feel that he must make a decision soon. "I have to come up
soon with a decision because it's not fair for the colleges. They have to
know what's happening." His reputation has interested many colleges,
including BYU, UCLA, Stanford, USC, Tennessee and Oklahoma, all of whom
Olson says he is considering.
The interest of so many top schools in Olson isn't for nothing. Olson has
worked hard and become the most complete quarterback that they see. His
coach, Mike Sanders, reports, "A lot of college coaches say he's the whole
package." His physical characteristics are first rate (6 foot, 5 inches, 210
pounds. runs 40 yards in 4.65 seconds and has a 36 inch vertical leap), and
his on-field performance is also great. Last year he passed for 2,907 yards
and 17 touchdowns, completing 58% of his passes with just six interceptions.
In addition, he has shown continual improvement; in his last game last year
he threw for a career-high 480 yards.
Olson started playing football in the eighth grade, only to be told by his
father that he wouldn't like it. And at first he was regularly sacked, "He'd
say hike and guys would come through and kill him," receiver Dave Anderson
said. His father saw the sacks and said, "See, I told you you wouldn't like
football." But Olson says that wasn't true, "I fell in love with my first
He has learned a lot since then, and doesn't get sacked nearly as often. And
he has also developed another key attribute for being a quarterback,
leadership. Two years ago Thousand Oaks high assistant coach Gary McGinnis
asked Olson, then a sophomore, to look out for his daughter, a new
substitute teacher at the school. Unlike what happens with other
substitutes, the new teacher's classes were the best behaved in the school
that day, all because Olsen convinced his classmates to treat her well. LA
Times reporter Eric Sondheimer says, "When Olson acts, people follow. It's
not blind trust in his ability but unwavering faith in his instincts and
National interest in Olson jumped last summer when he participated in a
combine at Stanford. There Internet prep football gurus saw him and started
proclaiming him the No. 1 quarterback in the state, if not the nation. Since
then, interest in Olson has been high, and Olson is convinced he's on track
to become a top quarterback. He also seems committed to doing what it takes
to meet that goal, "Nothing comes without hard work," he said. "I've worked
real hard to get where I am and hopefully I'll continue to work hard."
Head of the Class
Los Angeles Times 26Aug01 S2
By Eric Sondheimer
Olson's size and speed make the Thousand Oaks quarterback one of the most sought-after recruits.
RMR Racer Is Charged With Assault
Salt Lake Tribune 29Aug01 S2
LDS High School Quarterback Rated #1
LDS High School Football Star Profiled