He first picked up football last year. After flipping from Utah to BYU, could tight end Anthony Olsen be a steal for the Cougars?


Editor’s notice • This story is obtainable to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers solely. Thanks for supporting native journalism.

Melissa Olsen sat in her bed room because the clock ticked previous 11 p.m. Her husband, Corbin, and her son, Anthony, had been sitting within the room subsequent to her, speaking in regards to the prospects of Anthony signing together with his dream faculty, the College of Utah, the following morning.

Because the dialog waned, Melissa felt her eyes glaze over. However simply earlier than she drifted off, she obtained a textual content from an unknown quantity. She vaguely acknowledged the title within the message. However she Googled it simply to make sure.

“Who’s Kalani Sitake?”

Minutes later, BYU’s head soccer coach was on speakerphone within the bed room, pleading his case as to why Anthony ought to flip his dedication within the eleventh hour. He went by means of an entire host of causes, none greater than BYU needing a good finish instantly. Utah, alternatively, had a surplus on the place simply within the incoming recruiting class.

Because the time crept up on midnight, Sitake ended his last-gasp effort with this: “It’s good to be needed, isn’t it?” he instructed the 17-year-old. “Savor this.”

And as unlikely as this scene was, it labored. Olsen de-committed from Utah the following day. By Thursday afternoon, he wrote on Twitter he was dedicated to BYU. There was no scholarship concerned. As a substitute, he ditched the college he was a lifelong fan of to guess on a most popular walk-on spot in Provo.

“I actually didn’t see this one coming,” mentioned Olsen, who known as Utah his “dream faculty” in an interview 48 hours earlier.

Olsen’s last-ditch recruitment and de-commitment isn’t totally surprising. He would have been a most popular walk-on at Utah, whereas there’s a probability he will probably be on scholarship sooner quite than later in Provo. And for Olsen, it’s truly fairly becoming given the context of the uncooked however proficient prospect’s final 12 months.

Presently final 12 months, Olsen had by no means performed a snap of soccer. He knew of BYU, however hadn’t thought of going. He was a Utah fan by means of and thru. And his relationship with the college was made extra complicated by his household historical past with the soccer program. It dated again to his grandfather, one of many first Black soccer gamers in BYU historical past.

If anybody requested if Olsen can be taking part in tight finish at BYU in 2021, the reply would have been a powerful no.

‘Caught me off guard’

The whispers round Olympus Excessive Faculty began within the midst of basketball season final 12 months. Olympus head soccer coach Aaron Whitehead heard {that a} 6-foot-4 heart was contemplating selecting up soccer within the fall. He didn’t know if he believed it. He didn’t know if it might work. However he went out to a basketball recreation anyway.

Sitting on the scorer’s desk, Whitehead couldn’t take his eyes off Olsen. He was skinnier again then, however fought for rebounds and seemingly got here up for each free ball.

“A person amongst boys actually,” mentioned Whitehead, who began inviting his assistants to video games.

Quickly after, Whitehead heard instantly from Melissa the rumors had been true. In the identical dialog, Olsen’s mom offered a whole plan for her son that may assist him develop into football-ready within the span of six months.

She had reached out to Anton Palepoi, a former NFL participant and Hunter Excessive Faculty graduate, to assist Olsen practice. She didn’t know Palepoi, however the two made a connection by means of a neighborhood hairdresser. Anthony needed to achieve 30 kilos by the point he performed soccer. Perhaps Palepoi may assist him get there.

The opposite main concern was Olsen giving up basketball. If soccer didn’t work out, Melissa didn’t need her son to give up a sport the place he had an opportunity to play Division I. So, if Olsen was going to play soccer, he needed to go all-in.

“It caught me off guard at first after I heard he needed to play soccer,” Palepoi mentioned, realizing he was going into his senior season. “Nevertheless it turned full-time coaching. He needed it that unhealthy.”

By the point summer time hit, Olsen gave up AAU basketball. Palepoi would drive to his home for a exercise at 7 a.m. They’d do agility coaching on basketball courts adopted by a carry. By 3 p.m. Olsen would usually drive out to Skyridge to work out once more with a bigger group. On the finish of the night time, Olsen would carry as soon as extra. He went from 185 kilos to almost 230 in a six-month span.

The one a part of the plan that didn’t work was the place. Whitehead initially considered Olsen as a defensive lineman. However in his second soccer exercise, Palepoi’s seventh-grade son performed catch with Olsen. He caught the ball with ease. From then on, he performed tight finish.

“I’ve been doing this a really very long time, over 25 years being an assistant and head coach,” Whitehead mentioned. “I’ve by no means skilled this. By way of simply pure expertise. I’m pinching myself.”

The backstory

In fact, the pure query for Olsen is why he hadn’t picked up soccer sooner. His senior season produced 514 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns. He picked up practically a half-a-dozen provides in six months.

And the reply has all the things to do together with his grandfather: Bennie Smith.

Smith was one of many first Black faculty soccer gamers at BYU within the Seventies. He ended up within the NFL and had a trailblazing profession.

However the toll {of professional} soccer hit arduous for Smith. He had accidents and well being issues. His psychological state, later in life, deteriorated. It turned tough for the household. Melissa didn’t need her son to play soccer or go down that path.

“My mother by no means instructed me a lot about my grandpa,” Olsen mentioned. “Simply because it’s a [difficult] topic.”

Bennie Smith is Olsen’s grandfather who performed at BYU from 1971-72. He was one of many first Black soccer gamers to play on the college.

So Olsen grew up round basketball. He turned a Utah fan like his father. Melissa went to BYU, even getting her campus tour from her father’s head coach, LaVell Edwards. However the household cheered for the Utes. One 12 months, Olsen went to BYU basketball summer time camp. In the course of the week, he was the one child sporting a Utah shirt.

By the point he hit highschool, folks began to ask Olsen if, at his measurement, he performed soccer. He’s 5 inches taller than Smith and a bit thicker. However Melissa had reservations. It wasn’t till final spring — on the situation that Olsen would acquire weight — she agreed.

“I had come round to it,” Melissa mentioned. “Simply watching him play basketball, he is without doubt one of the greatest and most bodily youngsters on the courtroom. That was my reference. I didn’t suppose any of the [offers] would occur. I simply needed him to expertise the friendship in soccer.”

Trying forward

When Olsen instructed his father that Sitake’s last-second pitch labored, there was an preliminary disappointment. Utah was Corbin’s faculty, but it surely had additionally develop into his son’s. In spite of everything, certainly one of Olsen’s babysitters rising up had been Nate Orchard — a Utah soccer legend who now performs within the NFL.

“I believe he’s nonetheless grieving a bit,” Melissa joked.

Anthony Olsen known as Utah his “dream faculty” 48 hours earlier than he flipped his dedication to BYU.

However the disappointment has given technique to pleasure for each Corbin and Melissa. Their son has accomplished an unbelievable transformation and can play Division I soccer 13 months after his first soccer recreation. He may even vie for a beginning place in his freshman 12 months. After 2022, he hopes to be on scholarship. None of that may have been doubtless at Utah.

Olsen will even be following in his grandfather’s footsteps, a prospect no one thought was within the playing cards.

And thru all of it, they are going to have a traditional recruiting story to inform. A flipped dedication within the eleventh hour.

“It’s type of cool [my story],” Olsen mentioned. “My household is tremendous proud. It’s particular.”

Leave a Reply