Saying Goodbye to Missionary Ben

He's "The Franchise." Ben Olson, rated by many as the No. 1 QB in the Class of 2002, is just days away from his mission to Calgary, Canada. We caught up with him to ask how his first year in the Cougar program went, why a proselyting mission over a football one, and where he hopes the program will be when he gets back. And when the handsome redhead expects to tie the knot!

You're not much longer for this lifestyle, being in the secular world. What are you feeling right now?
I have a lot of weird feelings knowing that I'll be gone for two years, away from everything I know. I know I'm doing the right thing although a lot of people don't understand how I can do this and give up football for so long. Still, it's the right thing for me as a person.

What have you heard about your mission
I've heard it has a strong Mormon population and it's going to be pretty cold. Overall, I've heard nothing but great things about the people in Canada. I'm really looking forward to getting up there. I actually have to buy some parkas up there; I don't think they make them good down here (Southern Calif.)!

How did the mission decision come about?
It was at the end of October, during the season. It just worked out that I wasn't supposed to play this year and that was my answer. I talked to players, asking them about their missions and the experiences. They also all said listen to your parents for input. Mine supported me all the way and never told me what to do.

You've said you contemplated using football as a missionary tool. Did you seriously consider staying and letting your play on the field be your mission?
I did. I truly believe all the publicity I received happened for a reason. A lot of guys aren't given the opportunity I was given. Things worked out the way they did and I knew I needed to go. I've been blessed too much in my life to not give back. I honestly believe I can serve a mission and accomplish all my dreams when I get back and be a better person for it. I look at it this way: I'm giving up too much to go out and waste my time in the mission field.

What would be your ideal situation coming back off your mission?
I hope we as a program continue to improve and hope I can get in a good situation to play. I'll come back in December of 2004, have a month to get ready for spring ball, and then play in the fall of 2005

Redshirting your first year… frustrating or more of a relief?
More frustrating, definitely. It was hard to watch the team struggle when I felt I could've helped the team out. It was definitely tough at times.

There was a lot of talk that you were going to play in the Utah State game. How close was that to becoming a reality?
Very close. I got my answer after that game that I was supposed to be in the equation (reps in practice). Coach Crowton, during the bye week after the Georgia Tech game, opened it up and evaluated all the quarterbacks and I was pretty close to playing. It just worked out I didn't. I was told I had a good shot so my family went up to the game. Not playing, you get those crazy uncles (who were upset); what's funny is I think I handled it better than my family.

Obviously, you didn't play in a game, but based on practice how different was high school football versus the college variety?
It's definitely more sophisticated and the game speed is much greater. What really helped me out was playing in the CaliFlorida Game, where in practice I went against great corners. Then, I was thinking I could get force the ball into coverage but I had to adjust to the closing speed. When I went up to BYU it wasn't that big of a change from the all-star game. The toughest part is the playbook. I've seen bits and pieces, not the whole thing. The complete book must be about 2,000 pages.

You considered UCLA… the Bruins used both of their true freshmen QBs this year. Did you ever have second thoughts on your decision?
No, I didn't. It was obviously tough watching other freshmen play who I've been to camps with, but I truly feel things will work out in the end at BYU.

What's the biggest area you want to improve on when you get back?
Everything! I want to get faster, quicker, throw harder, and learn how to pick apart a defense. Especially what I need to do when I walk up to the line (of scrimmage).

Being so highly touted at Thousand Oaks High, did you feel extra pressure coming in to meet peoples' expectations?
There was a lot of pressure on me to perform, but I had that my whole senior year so it wasn't anything new to me. I realized after a couple of struggles my senior year that it's a game and you're supposed to have fun. As long as you're having fun, you'll perform well.

Who impressed you of the freshman class you were part of?
I thought we had a really good class. Curtis Brown, when he played he did great. (Daniel) Coats, he's a big, physical receiver who catches anything near him. Thomas Stancil will be a really good player, too. (Jake) Kuressa is humongous and very athletic for his size. There's a lot of talent there.

How did you acclimate to the other aspects of college life, including the social and academic?
It was tough at first—there's nobody to make sure you go to class or do what you need to do. That will definitely help me on my mission. I liked the social side a lot. I felt I fit in well and got along with all the teammates. There wasn't any point in getting a girlfriend, though, knowing I was going on my mission.

How long after you get back off your mission before you're married?
Umm… I don't know. A month… just kidding. Whenever I find her.


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