ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

College football: UMD’s Olson an easy one to root for

Longtime backup paid his dues to finally become the Bulldogs’ full-time starting quarterback.

Minnesota Duluth starting quarterback Garrett Olson (16) fires a pass in front of Bulldog head coach Curt Wiese, left, during practice
Minnesota Duluth starting quarterback Garrett Olson (16) fires a pass in front of Bulldog head coach Curt Wiese, left, during practice at Malosky Stadium on Wednesday morning, Aug. 24, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth senior quarterback Garrett Olson spent a lot of time with presumptive starter John Larson over the years and said he admired him a great deal.

“John is a great person, great athlete, and he was definitely someone that passed on the tradition here at UMD,” Olson said. “He had that earn-it kind of mentality that we talk about. Nothing is given here. You always gotta earn it. Every day at practice, every day at workouts. Whether it’s a meeting, practice, workouts, you got to earn it every day, and that’s something he replicated really really well and I admired of John.”

Now, it’s Olson’s turn.

Olson, a Minnetonka High School product from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was announced as UMD’s starting quarterback last week. He can’t wait to lead the Bulldogs’ into their season opener at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, against Southwest Minnesota State at Malosky Stadium.

Starting Bulldog quarterback Garrett Olson (16) leaps as he tosses a pass during practice at Malosky Stadium
Starting Bulldog quarterback Garrett Olson (16) leaps as he tosses a pass during practice at Malosky Stadium on the Minnesota Duluth campus Wednesday morning, Aug. 24, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Olson, the consummate pro, even if he’s an amateur, wouldn’t divulge the Bulldogs’ game plan against the Mustangs.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I don’t want to give away anything but … I’m just excited about it,” Olson said. “This camp has been a great camp. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of energy, and we’re excited for kickoff Thursday.”

Olson would be the first to tell you he has a lot of offensive weapons at his disposal. That includes senior wideout Armani Carmickle, who broke UMD’s single-season record with 1,315 receiving yards last season.

In addition to Carmickle, seniors Byron Bynum and Kurtis Weigand are quality receiving targets and senior captain Wade Sullivan can do a little of everything out of the backfield. Zach Ojile, who like Sullivan is a senior captain, is about as versatile as it gets. He’s played tight end, fullback, jumbo-package bulldozer and even taken snaps under center. He’ll be relied upon all over the field after being lost last season to a knee injury.

Minnesota Duluth receiver Noah Skifton (3) catches a touchdown in front of Alex Sylvester (15)  during practice
Minnesota Duluth receiver Noah Skifton (3) catches a touchdown in front of Alex Sylvester (15) during practice at Malosky Stadium on Wednesday morning, Aug. 24, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

It always starts up front, of course, and UMD has a great place to start. Professional football prospect Brent Laing, another senior captain, very mobile for being 6-foot-4 and 294 pounds, leads the position.

“It’s a really veteran group up front,” UMD coach Curt Wiese said.

Wiese wouldn’t rule out playing multiple quarterbacks this fall, saying it’s probable but Olson deserved the starting nod.

Olson, who played in seven games last season, posting a career-high 692 passing yards and eight touchdowns, won a quarterback competition with sophomore Logan Graetz and redshirt freshmen Nate Elmes and Kyle Walljasper. The 6-foot, 192-pound Olson might not be as glitzy as some other quarterbacks but he certainly has leadership skills.

“Garrett has been a team guy throughout his entire career so we’re excited to see him take the reins,” Wiese said. “I think he is the product of a guy who has never gotten ahead of himself. He has understood and appreciated the fact that he’s been part of our program and has also seen his importance in our program throughout his entire career. He’s been a super-consistent leader for our team throughout his five years here.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota Duluth quarterback Garrett Olson (16) makes a call at the line during practice
Minnesota Duluth quarterback Garrett Olson (16) makes a call at the line during practice at Malosky Stadium on Wednesday morning, Aug. 24, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

If for some reason it doesn’t work out for Olson it sure wouldn’t be for a lack of effort, attitude or commitment.

“We try not to look too far into the future but obviously we prepare for the future,” Olson said. “It’s kind of a motto around here, but we like to take it day by day and get better little by little. That’s what we think replicates winning.”

So what exactly do the Bulldogs have to do to be successful this year?

“I’d say play together, and stay together through adversity,” he said. “With the experience we have on our team it’ll be great to see how we handle adversity. That’s the difference between winning and losing teams is how they handle adversity, staying together as a group and playing for the guy next to you. That’s really what it’s all about. Success comes with that.”

Success also comes through perseverance and heart, and Olson has plenty of that, too.

Special teams could be special

UMD returns junior kicker Curtis Cox, who went 13 of 17 on field goals last season, including a 51-yarder. He also made 42 of 47 extra point attempts and was named NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week three times.

Sophomore punter Logan Kobus looks to have a breakout season after an injury-plagued freshman year and Sullivan, the veteran, is a reliable return man.

SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE AT MINNESOTA DULUTH 

ADVERTISEMENT

What: College football season opener; NSIC game

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1

Where: Malosky Stadium

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 81 and 11 mph wind

2021 records: UMD 9-3, Southwest 2-9

offense.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
What to read next
Fleck has an overall record of 42-27 in six seasons at Minnesota.
Cromwell’s Taya Hakamaki turns in a career performance off the bench for the Bulldogs.
With about 15 minutes of playing time each game, Minnesota’s freshmen are getting a crash course in big-time college basketball
P.J. Fleck’s program hasn’t yet won the Big Ten West, but it’s building a track record unseen since the 1960s