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For football’s Seth Olsen, the game is all about Faith

BY AMIE KIEHN | FEBRUARY 19, 2009 7:51 AM

Grace Community Church in North Liberty is not ostentatious. The dull, pale blue walls are empty of any iconic wooden crosses, paintings of the Last Supper or stained-glass windows — the one the church does have is hidden behind a large black curtain.

“Christian symbols aren’t the most important thing to be seen,” said Jean Keeley, Grace Community’s office secretary and the appointed “glue” of the church. “Christ is the most important thing to be seen.”

It comes as no surprise then that this is Seth Olsen’s place of worship.

The former Hawkeye offensive lineman has never been showy. As he prepares to take part in the NFL scouting combine on Saturday, his faith has kept him humble.

For the 6-5 Olsen, he plays for an “audience of one.”

“For some reason, I am more in the zone in my walk with Christ Saturdays,” he said. “I read scripture before the game, just like a verse that I can write on my hand, and write on the tape on my wrists, as a focal point to remind me of who I am playing for and why I am playing this game.

“I always write ‘A.O.1.’ — Audience of One — on my wrist, because that is whom I am playing for. It really helps you free up, not worry about playing for 70,000 people in the stadium, or the 100,000 people watching at home.”

Coaches and peers recognize the humility and work ethic prevalent in the Omaha native.
“He’s got a strong drive, great character qualities,” said Jim Goodrich, the director of Athletes in Action, a ministry that works with athletes on campus.

Goodrich compares Olsen with another former Hawkeye, Aaron Kampman, saying the Green Bay Packers coaches love Kampman’s immense focus and believes Olsen puts forth similar effort.

“[Olsen] has a great work ethic,” Goodrich said. “I think a lot of it, I would attribute to faith. He is going to be reliable and persistent, which allows him to play at a higher level.

“That is his motivation, to please God, and that is the highest motivation you can have.”

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle has worked with Olsen and the other Hawkeyes — Shonn Greene, Mitch King, Bradley Fletcher, and Rob Bruggeman — who will journey to Indianapolis for the combine.

“I compare [the combine] to preparing for a take home test,” Doyle said. “You know the questions, it’s just a matter of developing a specific plan to answer the questions.

“The combine in Indianapolis has been going on for many years. Typically, they bring in the top 300 seniors and put them through a battery of standardized tests. So going into it, we know what the tests are going to be. It is just a matter of fine-tuning their skills in those tests.”

Doyle, who has worked with Olsen for the last five years, knows Olsen’s strengths and weaknesses, and he has seen firsthand how Olsen’s faith has helped to maximize his potential.

“When you get to know the athletes, invest in the athletes, spend a lot of time with them over the course of the year, you get to know their mental makeup and what motivates them,” Doyle said.

“Seth has always been clear and up front from the get-go that faith was important to him.
“Everybody pulls from different areas to improve their daily performance, and I think faith has been a vehicle for Seth that has allowed him to operate at a high level for some time.”

While Olsen has been hustling to get his body in peak performance for the combine, the Iowa graduate with a degree in political science has had one thing on his mind — Africa.

“My dream would be to someday work for a Christian missionary organization, or nonprofit, that specifically does work in Africa,” Olsen said.

He has earnestly been working with Monroe Elementary School in Cedar Rapids to help raise funds for charitable endeavors in Africa.

“We are trying to raise money for a well and bathroom facilities in Africa and that is through [the organization] Charity: Water,” Olsen said. “[Monroe Elementary] is an early childhood school, and the kids aren’t going to have much to bring in, so the [fundraiser] will build a little efficacy and make them feel involved in the whole project.”

The “Coins for Clean Water” initiative has raised more than $3,000 since being implemented Jan. 21 and will continue until March 14.

“I am really impressed with his attitude toward African development,” wife Christi Olsen said. “It’s really kind of come to a head, and it’s interesting what direction he wants to take after football.”
Those who know Olsen realize the 23-year-old is mature beyond his years.

“He’s a guy that already began to take the next steps in his life; he’s a married guy, very stable,” Doyle said. “When you look at an athlete’s ability to maximize his potential, Seth has the qualities that you’re looking for.”


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