You don’t have to look far to find a football family. That is, a family in which all the members are involved in the sport, from the kids who play, to the mother that unconditionally supports them thereby becoming savvy with the terminology herself.
They are found at all levels, from pee-wee to the pros. The Mannings – with Peyton, Eli, and dad Archie – are among the most recognizable. Same goes with Sterling and Shannon Sharpe, the twin Barbers, and Ravens OL Michael Oher who was the topic of The Blindside.
Like many, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen comes from a similar family. His father Chris Olsen Sr. has been the coach of Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, NJ for the past 25 years. Chris Jr, Greg’s older brother, played QB at University of Virginia. Kevin, the youngest, is currently the QB at Wayne. All three have played under their father.
Needless to say, football is in the Olsen men’s blood.
Sue Olsen on the other hand has never played football (or so we can assume). But she has an equally vital role, if not the most important role in the family. Usually, the mother is the one who holds down the home fort, making sure to create a supportive environment… especially the night after a bitter defeat. It’s the mother that does all the intangibles, things that will never be recorded in any stat book anywhere, that ensure the kids can continue to play the game and succeed at a higher level. Sue was this support figure for the Olsens.
But what happens when that support is taken away? In 2001, Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer. Greg was only 16 years old. He was playing football under his dad at Wayne and was being recruited even then. But football suddenly took a backseat in the household.
Sue underwent chemotherapy and all the other procedures to treat the disease. But through it all, her support for her family and their sport never wavered. She still attended all their games, going so far as to don a blonde wig and hat when the radiation took out her hair.
“She was pretty remarkable through the whole thing,” Greg said.
Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending. Sue fought the cancer and won. Today she is a 10-year survivor and still has her job as a physical education teacher at a local school.
Having survived the illness and seeing first hand the pain it can cause, Sue, along with the rest of the family, started the “Receptions for Research” foundation, dedicated to finding cures for breast cancer. It has since raised about $250,000 and still going strong.
As for Greg, his career in Carolina looks very bright. With the departure of starting TE Jeremy Shockey, Olsen seems to be next in line for the spot. This past season, he was a favorite of sensational rookie Cam Newton, recording 45 receptions for 540 yards and 5 TDs. Off the field, he and his wife Kara have a 10-month old son, Tate. It’s hard to conceive that Tate won’t grow up to play someday. And maybe, if health permits it, little Tate might play for his grandpa Chris.
The Olsen family tradition continues.
Follow Giovanni Galindo on Twitter @giogalindo