University of Minnesota, Duluth, senior right tackle Tom Olson will set a new program record when he starts his 54th straight game tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 30) at No. 2 Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo.
Over the last five seasons, Olson, a 6-6, 285-pound captain, has had plenty of postseason experience after the Bulldogs won a national championship in 2010. Last season the team was upset in the opening round in triple overtime and reached the regional finals in 2011.
Olson and his Bulldog teammates moved on to the second round of the NCAA Division II national tournament with a 55-13 win over Emporia State in Duluth Nov. 23.
The fifth-year captain grew up in Coon Rapids and is a 2009 graduate of Totino-Grace High School in Fridley. He credits head coach Jeff Ferguson for preparing him for life in college football.
“Our coaches at Totino ran practice very similar to what we do in Duluth so they a great job preparing you for what it’s’ like in the real world,” he said.
Being a veteran leader on the team is something in which Olson takes pride as well. “Being a captain is a real honor because it gives me a chance to help the younger kids in their development,” said Olson, red shirted his freshman season to add weight.
“We’ve been fortunate to be in the playoffs each season,” he said about having the chance to surpass former teammate now coach Garth Heikkinen’s consecutive games played streak.
“Fortunately we have good trainers too who have helped us all stay relatively healthy.”
Besides the occasional ankle and shoulder injury, Olson said he’s stayed away from the more serious injuries.
“We run the ball a lot,” he said, while protecting the quarterback’s front side on passing plays. “I love to get off the ball and get after someone. We’re a really physical team.”
Given the cold temperatures in Duluth (seven above zero against Emporia State), running the ball becomes a necessity, in addition to physical play. “Usually the team that runs the ball better wins in those conditions,” Olson said, crediting the running attack as a team effort to set the blocks and find the openings in the defense.
With three of the four teams left in the Super Region hailing from the Northern Sun (NSIC) and Minnesota, Division II football seems to be on the rise, especially this season.
“The conference is really coming along and nobody is an easy out,” Olson said, referring to a 21-17 loss to No. 1 ranked Mankato earlier this season. St. Cloud State faces Mankato in the other Super Regional final Nov. 30.
Jason Olson is at