Phil Olsen attended Logan High School in Logan, Utah where he was a three year starter as an offensive and defensive tackle, but he wasn’t just a football standout. He also earned varsity letters in football, basketball and track and field. Olsen earned all-state honors in football and even earned all-division and all-region honors in basketball as a senior.
The big, strong, athletic tackle took his talents to Utah State University, where he was a three year starter for the Aggies, including a consensus All-American selection in 1969. Olsen was inducted into the Utah State Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and was a member of the USU All Century Football Team.
The fourth overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Boston Patriots, Olsen suffered a severe knee injury in practice the week of the college All-Star game, ending his 1970 season before it began.
Olsen was traded to the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 1971 season. After winning the starting spot at right defensive tackle, he suffered a second injury to the same knee. After five weeks of rehab, he came back and was the starter for the Rams for the 1971 and 1972 seasons next to his big brother and future hall-of-famer Merlin. That magical run was the only time that two brothers played side-by-side in NFL history.
For the 1973 and 1974 seasons the younger Olsen was moved to defensive end where he backed up Fred Dryer and eventual Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.
Olsen was traded to the Broncos in 1975 where he played for two seasons.
Phil and his two professional football playing brothers ran the Olsen Brothers All Sports Camps from 1971 through 1978. Phil spent decades in real estate and is currently the president of Know Your Strengths, where he spends his time advising clients and executive level management through talent discovery, recruiting, job matching, motivation and other needs.
An avid outdoorsman, the 74-year-old enjoys hunting, fishing and hiking.
In a recent interview with SC Daily, the Montana resident talks about seeing his first collectibles, being locker room neighbors with a Hall of Famer, memorable trips to meet fans in Hawaii and more.
Tony Reid–When a player sees themselves on a trading card for the first time it’s a special experience. You appeared on four cards but three were actually stamps. Do you remember first seeing those NFLPA and Sunoco Stamps as well as your 1973 Topps RC?
Phil Olsen– I do. It was a big moment in an athlete’s life. That is something most kids do-collect cards. I had my own collection for years and years. I had always dreamed about seeing myself on a card. When it actually happened it was very special.
TR–What did your card collection look like as a kid?
PO-Most of us collected baseball cards to start with. I had a couple hundred baseball cards. I started collecting some football cards when I got a little older. My football card collection was never as extensive as my baseball card collection.
TR–What players or teams were you drawn to collect as a young kid?
PO-That is a great question. I think the teams that got the most attention-the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and the Dodgers, growing up in northern Utah, we didn’t get a lot of TV there. My family didn’t get a television until I was 11 years old. I didn’t watch a lot of TV. If they carried a broadcast it was usually a national broadcast. The teams that were getting the teams that were getting the most attention nationally were the ones we saw most.
TR– Do you remember when you were first asked for your autograph?
PO-I think the first time was when I was in high school. There were kids that wanted to get my autograph. I was a little bit embarrassed by that, wondering what in the world did they want me to sign that for. As I got into college and started to get more and more notoriety it became a fairly regular thing. When I got into the NFL it was a big deal. There were lots of autographs and lots of fan mail. One of the things that amazes me to this day is that I get letters from kids and autograph collectors all over the country asking me to autograph cards or pictures. A lot of the people make their own cards. They ask if I will autograph them. I am happy to do that. Here we are all of these years later and I am still getting fan mail. I don’t know how they get my address but somehow they have figured out to make it work.
TR- You had a locker next to a guy who wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, right?
PO- One of the stories that might be fun for you to hear. When I was with the L.A. Rams every player would have a box next to their locker. That is where they would put your mail. Some of the letters we would get from kids around the country, if on the envelope it said “Phil Olsen L.A. Rams”, somehow those letters would still get to us in L.A. I was amazed at the efficiency of the post office to just get these letters to us. There were a lot of them coming in. Some players got much more than others.
My roommates for four years was Jack Youngblood. Jack is a dear friend of mine. He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He used to get tons of letters I would have one box next to my locker and he would have three boxes next to his locker. One day I was reading this letter from this kid it said “Dear Phil Olson, you are the greatest football player I have ever seen in my life. You are so fast. You are so quick. You are so smart.” I am thinking man, this kid is really good. I might make a copies of this and put them in everybody’s locker. I might send this letter to my mother. I am reading through this letter and at the end he signs it “Sincerely, Johnny” then there is a P.S. and he asks “P.S. would you please send me a picture of Jack Youngblood?” That was when a little bit of reality set in. He was just trying to butter me up. You have to be careful about taking yourself too seriously with this stuff.
TR-Do you have any memorabilia or items from your career displayed throughout your home?
PO-I do. I am sitting in my office. I have a few pieces. I am not a guy who wants to put everything on the wall or have all of my trophies on the bookshelf. I have a bunch of boxes in the garage filled with all of that stuff. Being a football players was a very important part of my life but certainly doesn’t define me. I don’t want people to remember me as just a football player. I would prefer that they remember as someone who played football for a period of time but someone who did a number of other things as well. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I have worked hard to develop my attributes, strengths and capabilities in other areas of my life and tried to give back to as many places and organizations as I can.
TR-What was the most memorable fan interaction during your career?
PO-Years ago I used to do sports camps and one of the places we did them was Hawaii. That was a camp that we had Jack Youngblood’s name on. We would go way out back on these islands and we would do clinics for the Hawaiian kids. We would take bags of our football gear and we would put the stuff on the kid one piece at a time. Here stands this four-foot tall kid and now we have a lineman’s shoulder pads and shoes and helmet on him. That was always fun to do things like that.
One of the most special things I had the chance to do was I took the first group of NFL players down to the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Moloka’i. That is where the leper colony was. I took about a dozen NFL players in to the hospital in Kalaupapa. We had the opportunity to talk to a number of the patients who were in the hospital, many of them horribly disfigured. A lot of them were blind and they were isolated from the world but they were remarkably well educated. They had books and magazines and newspapers. Every one of them had tape recorders next to their beds and they were rabid sports fans. We took an L.A. Rams highlight film. We showed them the NFL Follies videos. They were ecstatic that a group of NFL players would take some time to come down and visit with them.