The final part in this series features University of Wisconsin-Whitewater linebacker Lane Olson. Whitewater is coming off of its second straight Division III Championship title, and Lane, a captain on defense and native of Racine, Wisconsin, is graduating with a degree in Health and Human Performance.
Let’s start out with your school’s championships. There has been a lot in the news in the last decade about Division I football and the BCS. What was it like to actually settle a college football championship on the field?
It was real good. In Division III we obviously have a playoff system, unlike Division I. We’ve been there (the championship game) the last 6 years and this past year we got a 5th seed overall and a 2nd seed in our bracket in the playoffs. So we had to play on the road for the last two playoff games against two good teams. So it felt good to go on the road and beat these teams, just prove that we were number one, ended up going to the championship and winning it.Have you faced extra challenges because you played D-III football? Are there any misconceptions you hear from people?
Definitely, being in Division III in general, a lot of people that maybe have the potential to play at the next level don’t even get a look. I’ve had the privilege of playing at Whitewater and getting that national recognition, playing in the national championship game the past 4 years. So that definitely helps, but it’s also a big disadvantage just coming from a Division III school. Myself in general, I’m not NFL profile being 5’9″, 205 and playing outside linebacker. I’m going in as a safety, so every team that I have talked to has talked to me about being a safety. I think just being Division III, you definitely have to prove yourself more. I can’t just go there and people are going to say “we’re looking for Lane Olson.” I have to open their eyes and have them come to me, put myself out there on the map and perform as best as I can, get some top numbers to even get a look.You had a lot of high school success in wrestling. Did you participate in college?
No. I got an offer at a couple schools to wrestle, but I love football, cutting weight for wrestling just didn’t cut for me. I love the sport of wrestling and I’ll always love it, I don’t think there will ever be a greater feeling than when I won the state championship, that’s just what you put into it. It’s an individual feeling, definitely a highlight from my athletic career.How has wrestling helped your football career and vice-versa?
In high school the best players on our football team were all wrestlers. I think wrestling translates into football really well. Your aggression, balance, the way you handle your body and control people, it all converts into football and makes you a better football player.Describe the importance of your role on your team.
I was a captain my senior year, so I try to be a leader, take that leading role. I think one of the biggest things is getting the players to do extra work. I always worked hard and players saw that, kind of bought into that. I’d always go in and lift or run extra, I always wanted to go that extra mile. I hate losing, and when someone is better than me, I take it upon myself to try even harder. So I think that helped with the team. I got a big group together during the summer, and even during the season, to do a little extra lifting on the side. They saw me and just joined in with me. On the field I was the leading tackler and in sacks this year. I think I just set the tempo of the game. One of the biggest things I like about the sport is the hitting. I always like setting the tempo of a game with a big hit or something like that.What was your favorite play to run?
Any blitz, really. I love blitzing. I got a lot of sacks off of blitzes, just big plays off of blitzes. Any kind of blitz that was called, that was my way, my number, and I was definitely pretty excited.Describe some of the techniques you generally focus on most.
I was actually a safety my freshman year and I converted to linebacker, so I had to switch my whole technique because linebacker is a run first, pass second type of player, whereas with safety you are pass first, run second, so you are backpedaling right off the snap. With a linebacker you are shuffling forward toward the line of scrimmage on the snap of the ball, so I worked on that a lot, and just pass-dropping, because the receivers are behind you already, so you have to zone-drop or man-drop, try to find a receiver instead of having them in front of you. So I had to work on that and more hands-on, being involved with hitting linemen and full backs, and shock and shedding and stuff like that.And now you are transitioning back…
Now I’m back to safety and back to covering. Playing linebacker definitely helped me at this level, showed my aggression, that I could hit and tackle, and also cover people.What advice have you gotten about preparing for a pro career?
I talked to Chris Maragos who is on the San Francisco 49ers right now. He actually trained here last year; he’s a former safety from Wisconsin. Some advice he gave me: just bust your ass, work as hard as you can. The NFL is a business and it’s not easy. If I make it I make it. The only thing you have to do is not have regrets. Know that you gave it your all and keep your head up. If you have to, get a chance to play somewhere else. I definitely don’t want to be done playing football right now.What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about football up until now?
That it’s a team game. It’s not an individual sport. Especially with our defense and the way we played, you can’t be a selfish player. If you are a selfish player you are going to open up gaps and it’s not going to help our defense. Sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself so somebody else can make a play and open it up like that. I bought in on that and learned that, our whole defense bought in on that whole concept, and we were a top-3 defense in the nation for Division III. Understanding the whole concept of it being a team game is definitely number 1.Describe yourself off the field: What is your attitude like, what sort of activities do you enjoy? Are you active on social networking websites?
Not too much, I play video games once in a while, but we don’t even have cable at our house. Honestly, I live in the weight room. I love working out, training, just playing sports in general. Basketball I love, extreme sports like snowboarding, wakeboarding, other weird stuff like mountain boarding. Anything that is extreme sports or sports-related, training, outdoors, up north, fishing, stuff like that.What are some of your goals for a professional career?
Well, first and foremost, make a team, obviously. Just get the opportunity to prove that I can play at the level. In my mind I know I can, as long as someone gives me the shot to do it. If I make a team obviously I’ll go to camp and try to fight for a roster spot. If not, even at this point making a practice squad I’d be happy with. Just being in with a team and being able to work my way up through the ranks, hopefully to prove myself.Have you had contact with scouts/agents that have given you tips or pointed you in a certain direction?
I haven’t really talked to any agents at this point. That was another thing Chris said; an agent isn’t too important right now. I’m not going to be a first-round draft pick or anything like that, so it’s not too important. I’ve talked to pretty much every NFL team during the season. They basically interrogate you and ask you questions, but nothing pulling you in one direction. They mostly say that you are only as good as your last year, so give it your all your senior year, train hard, and go from there.What specifically are you working on to make yourself more attractive to teams?
Nothing just yet, but I was an All-American, All-Conference player this past year, made the school record for solo tackles, so that helps. My pro day is Wednesday, so hopefully go there and put up some good numbers, some of the best in the country, as long as we’re doing what I’m doing here. Hopefully that will help me a lot.What motivates you when the odds are against you?
Probably just my competitiveness. I hate to lose. Really hate losing. Pretty much my love for the game. I just love being out there, the adrenaline that you get when you make a big hit or a big play, how the team rallies around that. So I’ve always thrived to make that big play. I just love hitting people.Do you have any preference for where you end up or are you just looking for the best opportunity?
Any opportunity I’d be happy with. My favorite team ever since I was young was the Atlanta Falcons, but really no preference. Any team that would give me a chance I’d be happy with.What helps you get through the difficult rigors or tough stretches during a season?
My teammates, having fun. I think the times that I’ll miss most about football are the teammates, the memories that you have in the locker room, traveling to an away game, during practice, having a good time with those guys. And pretty much my love for the game. I always had fun at practice, always treated practice as a place to get better. I never looked at it as “oh, I gotta go to practice again today.” I love practice, going and doing the drills against our offense. One of the big things about ours was just the competitive nature that we had at practice, going D against O. We always had fun with it, seeing who would do better that day, because whoever didn’t do better would get yelled at by the coach. There’s always determination to do good.If you played baseball, and were stepping up to an at-bat, what would be your entrance music?
Probably a song that I kind of created myself on my iTunes. It’s a mixture of a nasty storm, lightning and thunder and it goes into Hells Bells, the bell ringing. All of a sudden it breaks into the song “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”. It’s a fun mix that I created.Could you look back and name anything about your football career to this point you are particularly proud of, or wish you had done differently?
I’m pretty proud of my career in general, but I’d say the most would probably be my 2009 national championship game. I was the defensive MVP, and it was down-to-the-wire. In the 4th quarter I stepped it up and made some big plays that my coaches told me won the game for us. I ended up getting the defensive MVP and that felt pretty good to hear from my coaches. It was a good game, pretty intense.Special thanks to Brad Arnett, Nic Hansen and the staff at NX Level in Waukesha, WI. Visit www.nxlevelathletics.com/ for information on the work they do.