CollegeMontana Grizzlies


Dante Olson etching name alongside Montana Grizzly greats

Dante Olson.jpg
Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 20:20:14-05

MISSOULA -- Bobby Hauck has coached a lot of Grizzly greats in the Montana football program.

Add Dante Olson to that list.

When it's all said and done, Olson, a senior linebacker from Medford, Oregon, will go down as one of the best players to wear a Montana jersey. In the last two seasons as a starter, Olson has racked up 303 total tackles, a school-record 151 in 2018 before breaking his own mark this year with 152.

He's garnered multiple All-American awards, been a scholar-athlete and has a laundry list of other honors that could fill a trophy case and some.

But one of Olson's biggest achievements has been his work in the community since he arrived in Missoula. Most notable is his work as pen pals with Gerber Elementary students in Northern California, a task that was handed down to him by former Griz lineman Cooper Sprunk.

"It meant a lot to me that Cooper trusted me to do it. I didn't really know what was going to come with it," Olson said. "Didn't know what I was going to have to do or the details and time commitments and stuff like that. But talking to Keri (Spengler), who is the teacher down there, just kind of got me connected with the class and it kind of snowballed from there I guess and it really branched out and it became a really cool deal for me.

"It's been an awesome opportunity and getting involved in the community around here too is always good. It's fun to give back to different communities."

There were challenges that came with his new task. Being a full-time student and football player is already time consuming, but Olson said he'd take time out of his day to Skype with the students or read letters they sent him.

"It's one of those things that makes you feel good inside and you know you're doing something for a greater purpose," Olson said. "It's awesome that there's something I can do that the kids can look up to, and not necessarily the stuff on the field, but just going to college and getting a degree.

"I just really enjoy giving back and doing things that really help other people and not necessarily getting recognition for it. Doing the right thing and helping people and I just love working with kids and that's really what it's all about. You use a platform that God blessed you with to try and help other people and that's what I'm trying to do."

At this point in his career, Olson has 370 total tackles, just 23 shy of Vince Huntsberger's school record of 393 (though Huntsberger's career numbers don't include playoffs) so Olson could eventually pass him depending on how deep of a run Montana makes. He has 10.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and five forced fumbles in his career.

Most of those numbers came to fruition in the past two seasons when Olson broke out as a starter and star.

"It's just a matter of working hard every day and showing up and trying to be the best that you can be," Olson said. "The guys around me, I couldn't do it without them. They're out there pushing me every play. It's been one great ride."

Both of those years were with Hauck as he made his return to the Griz.

“The fact that he’s just a humble guy that works his tail off," Hauck said about what he enjoyed most in coaching Olson. "He wants to be good. He is not satisfied unless he improves. And then, personally he’s just a wonderful guy to be around and he’s good, not just football, he’s a good person.”

Hauck and Olson's teammates always point to his humility and humble attitude when approaching life. For Olson, that trait comes from his parents, Linda and Jeff Olson.

“My parents always said, like, it’s better to be praised by somebody else than have to praise yourself," Olson said. "So I don’t do it for myself. We made the playoffs and that’s awesome and I’m just trying to do my job every single play and us as a team, it’s not singular focus, it’s focus for the team in general, so everybody’s job is just as important and I think it takes a lot of humility for each and every guy on our team to do what we do and kind of buy in and accomplish what we’ve accomplished so far."

Aside from some other team community service work Olson has done with UM, he will also be doing something else unique and officiate a teammate's wedding when Griz center Cy Sirmon and his fiance, Lauren Heiser, get married next summer.

"I think me and Cy were fishing and he said, 'By the way, I think me and Lauren are going to have you marry us,' and I was like, 'Alright, great, that's awesome.' It's an honor for him and Lauren to ask me to do that," Olson said with a big grin. "I got a few months to look into getting ordained before that happens but it'll be fun. Looking forward to it."

But for now, Olson's attention is Saturday when Montana takes the field against Southeastern Louisiana for his first college playoff game. Olson is one of a number of key redshirt seniors who were all using their redshirt year the last time the Griz made the postseason.

There is a strong possibility that Olson could be playing on Sundays next season. But what he did off the field at Montana could leave as much of a lasting impact as what he did on it when his career comes to a close.

"I talked to coach Hauck about it a little bit before but getting to know the player behind the facemask is always something that's cool and unique," Olson said. "Just getting to know me on a little bit different and personal level is always pretty cool."