Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation

Panthers’ Greg Olsen credits youth sports for ability to guide own family

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Greg Olsen’s football story didn’t start with the Panthers, nor did it start with the Miami Hurricanes. It started when he was a 5-year-old boy, dreaming about playing football for Wayne Hills High School in northern New Jersey.

The Carolina tight end lives his life by the lessons he learned as a young athlete, even now as a 31-year-old father of three.

“There’s no other element of society for a young kid to really learn what the real world is like than playing youth athletics,” Olsen said at the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s Friday luncheon.

During his final year at Wayne Hills, Olsen and the rest of the Patriots won the school its first football state championship in 2002.

“It was not because of that one season,” Olsen said. “It was not because of me or any of the other guys on the team. It was because for three years, we never let results dictate our approach.”

Each member of the team was held to a high standard, Olsen said, regardless of his role.

In that established mindset, Olsen learned a whole new level of commitment and discipline through football.

But the lessons Olsen learned weren’t solely sports-related. Yes, they helped him on the field. But they also helped him off the field.

During his first NFL offseason with the Panthers, Olsen’s wife, Kara, became pregnant with twins. Their first son, Tate, was almost a year old at the time.

“May of 2012, we go for a routine ultrasound to find out the gender of the babies, and our life forever gets flipped upside down,” Olsen said.

T.J. was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare congenital heart condition. Having been born with half of a heart, if T.J. had not been treated immediately, he would have died. His sister, Talbot, was born without any hiccups.

Olsen said he relied on those childhood life lessons during this tough time. They not only taught him how to be a strong athlete, but more importantly, how to be a strong husband; a strong father.

“Never did I imagine how lessons learned from football, the lessons learned from my exposure to athletics would pretty much allow me to guide my family,” he said.

Olsen shares his story any chance he gets because he wants people to understand the importance of impacting children at a young age and teaching them life lessons from the start. The Charlotte Touchdown Club supports this cause, so Olsen supports the organization, along with his HEARTest Yard foundation.

Olsen recognizes that even though his life lessons were installed through athletics, they can be taught through other mediums, too — as long as they’re taught early.

“It might be 30 years later, 25 years later when they bring home a sick kid. It might be 10 years later when they’re having trouble finding a date to the prom,” Olsen said. “Regardless of what the situation is, it’s never too early to invest in our kids, because our kids are our community.”