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Posted 03 Sep 2001   For week ended August 31, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 30Aug01

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 practice."

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 judgment."

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."


See also:

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

See also:

LDS High School Quarterback Rated #1

LDS High School Football Star Profiled


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