The One that Got Away

Ben Olson could easily be the most famous BYU Cougar never to play a down in Provo. The most heralded recruit in BYU football history has now become a symbol of a gloomy time for the Cougars when nothing seemed to go right. TBS talked with Olson, who, like BYU, is looking to begin anew in 2005.

On October 29, 2002, then BYU quarterback Ben Olson told KSL Radio during an interview that he would definitely be coming back to BYU after his mission. He didn't. Ben Olson transferred to UCLA, and TotalBlueSports.com finally caught up with him to find out why.

"When I left on my mission I had every intention of returning to BYU," Olson said. "But when I got back I was at a different stage in my life, and BYU just didn't fit for me anymore."

Ben consulted a few close friends before making his decision.

"I talked to Andy Reid (Eagles head coach) who is a good family friend," Olson said. "We talked about different things, and when I told him I was going to UCLA he was supportive. I also talked to my best friend David Anderson [Colorado State, WR]. David and I both sat down and went over everything and he and I talked about the pros and cons."

The advice for Ben didn't stop there. He consulted an even higher source.

"I was very prayerful in this decision," Olson said. "Coming to UCLA has been an amazing experience. I have had so many missionary opportunities that I might not have had at BYU. I'm the only return missionary at UCLA right now. If I was at BYU I would be one of probably 50 return missionaries on the team."

When asked if he has gotten negative reactions from die hard Cougar fans that may have felt betrayed Olson said no.

"I'm sure people have said stuff behind my back but never to my face," Olson said. "I want people to know that I am a loyal person. But I hope they also understand I had to do what was in my best interest. When I came back BYU had a new coach. Coach Crowton who recruited me wasn't at BYU anymore. I was sad to leave BYU. I loved my time there, and I will still follow them and hope they do well. I have no bitter feelings towards BYU at all. But that is in the past and I look forward to the future. I'm working my hardest out here at UCLA and I'm excited to compete again."

Ben also talked about the whole recruiting situation again. And why things were different this time around.

"When I was in High School I committed early to BYU," Olson said. "I didn't even take any visits to any other schools but BYU. I didn't ask the coaches many questions. This time around I realized it's important to ask questions of the coaches. If I am going to commit to them and go to their school, then I want them to commit to me. I don't want them to promise me a starting position, but I want them to tell me how I will fit into their system."

Ben was also asked to address a few rumors that had circulated about his departure. Back in 2002 rumor had it that Ben was going to play in the Utah St. game. His parents came to the game and Ben was excited to play. But Coach Crowton did not put him in. Many felt that his family felt lied to.

"I supported Coach Crowton in his decision not to play me," Olson said. "But I'm not going to lie to you, I wanted to play. I'm a competitor by nature and it was a frustrating season for me because I wanted to help the team win. I knew I could help them. I didn't know how, but I knew I wanted to be on the field. We weren't winning and it wasn't easy for me to watch. But again that's all in the past."

When asked if he would have come back if Coach Crowton was still around, he said he didn't know.

Ben also said one final thing as to his departure.

"I know people are upset that I didn't come back." Olson said. "And it was hard for me, but I hope they can get over it. I just want to represent the Church the best I can and be the best football player I can."

Finally when asked if Ben was looking forward to the BYU vs. UCLA series coming up on the schedule in the future. He said, "Definitely, it's going to be exciting."

There is more to this interview that will be published in its entirety in the TBS Magazine. Some tidbits to look forward to: Ben's connection to Curtis Brown and his reaction to him getting baptized; his missionary Experience in Canada, and opportunities to share the gospel at UCLA; his comparison of BYU football players to UCLA football players; His thoughts on starting at UCLA this fall; dealing with BYU fans on the mission; and more.


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