Grant Olson has some fond memories of Frisco, Texas. The former North Dakota State standout middle linebacker was a part of the Bison's first three FCS national titles from 2011-2013 and was also a student assistant coach in the 2014 championship season. This weekend will be a first for Olson, though, as he'll be there for the first time as a position coach.
Olson is in his first season coaching the NDSU linebackers as part of Matt Entz's staff. He previously held the same position at Indiana State in 2017 and 2018 and was a graduate assistant from 2015-2016 at Wyoming under his former head coach Craig Bohl.
"It's pretty awesome," Olson told HERO Sports. "I'm looking forward to being back [in Frisco] because you look back at all the memories of how much fun it was to spend time with your teammates and friends down there. I'm looking forward to doing that as a coach."
"It'll be cool to be a part of it and compete for a national championship. And I'm definitely excited to experience it as a position coach because I haven't done that yet. I know it'll be a bit different, but I'm looking forward to seeing things on the other side as well."
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While Olson's memories of playing in Frisco were fond, they were also a bit painful from a physical standpoint. Between the semifinals and the title game in the 2012 season, Olson got appendicitis. While it didn't fully rupture, he was in the hospital during the 3-4 days leading up to the flight down to Texas. Olson still made the trip, suited up and recorded two tackles against Sam Houston State, finishing his junior season with 148 tackles.
Then as a senior, Olson dressed and played some snaps in the title game against Towson despite a torn ACL he suffered in early November, totaling three sacks and 0.5 tackles for loss. He finished his career with 326 tackles, No. 9 all-time at NDSU.
But as much as he'll be remembered for his play and toughness on the field during his time as a player, the legend of Olson's postgame victory rap in the Frisco locker room is the stuff of legends in Fargo.
"I think most of [the current players] have seen it, but maybe not all of them," Olson said with a laugh. "Every once in a while they'll bring it up and tease me about it. There's been a couple of guys that have asked, 'Hey coach if we make it back are you going to see if you have anything new for us?' But that was a one-hit wonder."
Described by Bohl as one of the smartest football players he's ever been around, it's no surprise Olson has found success in coaching. He coached up All-American linebacker Jonas Griffith at Indiana State. And now in his first season back with the Bison, Olson has helped NDSU's tradition of strong linebacker play continue despite two new starters in the lineup.
Middle linebacker Jackson Hankey leads the Bison with 110 tackles as just a sophomore. Junior Aaron Mercadel has stepped up from a special teams standout early in his career and has overcome a 2018 ACL tear to now being a solid starting outside linebacker with 48 tackles. And Jabril Cox earned several more All-American honors in his junior season.
Olson is thankful for the opportunity to be back at NDSU. When Entz was named the new head coach and was tasked with bringing on several new assistants, Olson's name was immediately thrown in by fans and media as a strong candidate to return to Fargo. When it was officially announced in January 2019, the passionate NDSU following was jacked to know one of the core players from the early national titles who knows the Bison culture and who is a bright football mind is back in the program.
"Honestly, in some ways, it's like nothing has changed," Olson said. "And things definitely have because there are new faces and things. But what I appreciate so much is that who we are, the core foundation of our program hasn't changed. So it's been seamless to be able to transition back. Fargo is such a great community and there are so many wonderful people that coming back and being welcomed back by everyone was a neat experience … Just getting the chance to work at NDSU I think is the coolest job you can ask for."
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