Lifelong dream realized as Broncos select Olsen

All Eric Olsen could do was wait.

The Notre Dame standout and former Poly Prep star’s future was out of his hands. His past performances had to do the talking, his performance in the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Notre Dame’s Pro Day.

“It’s been a nerveracking couple of months, all leading up to the draft,” the 6-foot-4, 306-pound offensive lineman said. “As the draft got close, it got more stressful and more nerveracking.”

Last week, that all went away with one phone call – from Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.

“Eric, we’re gonna select you,” the coach told him.

Moments later, his name flashed across the television screen, the 183rd pick and part of the sixth round of the draft. His lifelong dream, the one he jokingly spoke about years ago with good friend John Ferrara, a redshirt senior at Michigan, was a reality.

“You can’t believe it,” he said. “Everything I did up to this point, how hard I’ve been working, it’s worth it. It’s been a journey. I’ve been working since I was a little kid to get to this point, playing Pee Wee, to Poly Prep and Notre Dame.”

It was, indeed, a joyous Saturday night at the Olsens’ Staten Island household as the star lineman was surrounded by family – brother Drew, mother Joanne, grandmother Florence, and father Andy – and friends. He received a phone call from Ferrara, and the two reminisced.

“I was so proud there were a few tears in my eyes,” Andy Olsen said. “I was beaming. He’s worked very hard, he’s a good kid. He stayed out of trouble and has a great education behind him now.”

After a stellar career at Poly Prep, Eric Olsen made a name for himself at Notre Dame, starting the final six games of his sophomore year at right guard. After a solid junior year there, he moved to center as a senior and allowed just one sack, earning Guardian of the Year Award as Notre Dame’s top offensive lineman.

“The Broncos add a smart and instinctive pivot in Eric Olsen,” the NFL.com analysis read. “The former Notre Dame standout processes information quickly, and has the ability to make quick reads on the move. Given Josh McDaniels’ desire to rebuild the Broncos into a team full of competitive high-character guys with outstanding intelligence, the selection of Olsen is sensible at this point.”

Olsen became the first player from Poly Prep taken in the draft, a significant feat considering the powerhouse program coach Dino Mangiero, a former NFL defensive end, has built. Olsen is also the first Staten Island player drafted since 2000 when Maryland cornerback Lewis Sanders was picked by Cleveland with the first pick of the fourth round.

“I’m happy to represent Staten Island and represent Poly Prep,” he said.

Said Mangiero: “It’s a great opportunity. That’s all you ask for, to get a good chance. He’s gonna have an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.”

With the initial euphoria having faded, Olsen is ready to start his professional career. He has asked former Notre Dame standouts Ryan Harris (Broncos) and John Sullivan (Miami Dolphons) what to expect when three-day rookie mini-camp begins this weekend. He is excited about the opportunity, a chance to make a living at the sport he loves.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. Just because I’ve been picked doesn’t mean I’ve made it at all,” he said. “It’s a whole different animal, going from college [to the NFL]. It’s a completely different level, playing against guys that are grown men with families. It’s a business, it’s a job.”

His father sees that chip on his shoulder all over again, as it was four years ago when he arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman. He wanted to prove he belonged, coming from a place – New York City – not known for producing superior football players.

“He thinks he deserves to be there and he’s gonna try to prove it,” Andy Olsen said.