Posted by: marcmwm | December 31, 2008

Olsen’s post-Iowa life pointed at NFL

TAMPA, Fla. — Seth Olsen will do a lot of things with his life.


He’s a smart, articulate 23-year-old who also happens to be 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds. A deeply religious outlook and a political science major give Olsen a platform to launch his life pretty much wherever he wants. Missions in Africa, getting clean water to the poor and nursing the sick are some of his stated goals.


But that 6-5, 310-pound thing and all-Big Ten athletic ability, that’s not a bad place to start life, either.


So, Olsen’s going for it.


“I’ve kept it pretty mum the whole season,” Olsen said after Friday’s practice for the Outback Bowl. “I decided I was going to make my decision at the end of the year. I didn’t want to get caught up in all that outside stuff that doesn’t matter.”


Here on this gorgeous Florida day, after the Hawkeyes went through two hours of drills for their Outback Bowl matchup with South Carolina, Olsen finds himself discussing his future while balancing on one foot and taking off a cleat.


Sunburned neck, sunburned arms, dripping sweat, Olsen isn’t ready to take the cleats off for a last time.


“I’ve decided I’m going to try out for the NFL, give it my best shot,” said Olsen, who graduated in December.


Olsen, who earned all-Big Ten honors at guard, has accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine game Jan. 17, a college all-star game that is heavily scouted by the NFL.


Olsen’s 2008 season would be a good start for NFL scouts. He earned first-team all-Big Ten from the league’s media and coaches. He also was an academic all-Big Ten selection.


Olsen, who missed the Wisconsin and Illinois games after suffering a sprained ankle in early November, and Iowa’s offensive line helped power running back Shonn Greene’s single-season rushing record of 1,729 yards and record-tying 17 rushing touchdowns.


Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Olsen has been a stabilizing force on Iowa’s offensive line, physically and mentally.


“He’s been unselfish. He’s played a couple positions. He’s very intelligent and versatile,” Ferentz said. “He’s been extremely valuable in our program. The seniors we lose do so many things besides play their position. They do a lot of good things for our team and we’re going to miss them well beyond just their production on the field.”


Ferentz knows the NFL. He spent six seasons coaching offensive lines for the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens. He thinks Olsen belongs in the NFL.


“Seth has a lot of things going on in his life, a lot of things that are important to him,” Ferentz said. “I know he and his wife (Christi) want to do some things in life together. That’s great.


“If he chooses to give pro ball a shot, and I think he should and I’m confident that he will, whenever that ends, he’ll have time to do other things too.”


“Olsen” and “NFL” in the same sentence seemed to be a bit of a stretch after his Hawkeye debut.


After running on the second team in 2004, Olsen was pushed into action when right tackle Ben Gates suffered an injury going into the 2005 Iowa State game. This was when Iowa State’s defense had some teeth, with names like Jason Berryman, Nick Leaders, Tim Dobbins and Brent Curvey.


Olsen made his first start at right tackle and the Cyclones found him on the first snap. For the day, ISU had three sacks and six hurries. Berryman beat Olsen and forced backup quarterback Jason Manson into a quick throw that was returned for a TD.


“I got taken out in the fourth quarter for the guy I replaced (Gates),” Olsen said. “I was in for three quarters and they said, ‘Well, we’re going to be passing, we’re going to put him in.’ I was surprised. Why didn’t they play him the whole game if they played him in the fourth quarter?”


After that game during his red-shirt freshman season, Olsen went back to spot and backup duty. His next start didn’t come until 13 games later and came only because starter Mike Jones was suspended.


He ended up finishing the 2006 season bouncing between right guard and tackle but starting every game. In 2007, he started all 12 games at right tackle. This year, he’s been the right guard for every game except the two he missed.


His 33 starts are third on the team, behind only defensive tackles Matt Kroul (49) and Mitch King (44).


“Guard feels right,” Olsen said. “I think I’m versatile and I think I could play both (in the NFL). (But) I’ve been very comfortable at right guard, being able to play there for an entire season. It’s been good and I think it’s been good for all of us, building up our continuity and playing next to the same guy all year.”


The Berryman/Iowa State game was a tough one, but Olsen has plenty of good ones to balance it out.


Olsen has had “wins” against Michigan’s LaMarr Woodley and Michigan State’s Jonal Saint-Dic. He did what he could with Penn State’s Jared Odrick in his first start coming off the ankle injury.


You win some, you lose some.


“You’re not going to win them all,” Olsen said. “You have to be strong enough, smart enough to move on.”


Olsen is both.


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