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Montana Grizzlies' Dante Olson getting national recognition for off-field work

Posted at 2:00 PM, Sep 12, 2019

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA -- As a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award and the NCAA statistical champion for tackles per game last season, Montana All-America linebacker Dante Olson earned plenty of national recognition his record-setting efforts on the field.

Now the senior is receiving national recognition for his efforts off the field from the American Football Coaches Association as a member of the 27th annual Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

On Thursday, the AFCA announced that Olson is one of just 22 student-athletes from all levels of college football (FBS, FCS, D-II, D-III, and NAIA) to earn a place on the team that honors their leadership in local communities and overall commitment to giving back. The prestigious list was narrowed from a list of 137 nominees by an esteemed panel of judges, including Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN) and Tim Tebow (Florida, 2009 team). The Honorary Head Coach of the Good Works Team is Dabo Swinney of the National Champion Clemson Tigers.

As a member of the Good Works Team, Olson will be invited to the 2020 Allstate Sugar Bowl and will join Tebow, Allstate volunteers, and the rest of the team in a special community service project in New Orleans. Olson will also be invited to the Superdome where Allstate will recognize the Good Works Team during the Sugar Bowl halftime show.

For more than a year, Olson has served as a mentor and pen-pal with a class of underprivileged third graders at Gerber Elementary in Northern California farm country, encouraging them to pursue a college education as part of the "No Excuses University" program.

Since inheriting the program from former Grizzly Cooper Sprunk, Olson has spent time regularly Skyping with the class, exchanging letters, answering questions about college life and providing a positive message of encouragement. In the summer of 2018, he even took it upon himself to travel to California to meet the kids, spend time with them, and use his story to impact their lives for the better through higher education.

The relationship will come full circle on Sept. 28 when the kids from Gerber travel to watch Olson and the Grizzlies play at UC Davis following a hugely successful fundraising drive to help get them there.

During his time at Montana, Olson has also served as an anti-bullying advocate and helped save lives when the Grizzlies participated in a campus-wide "Be the Match" bone marrow registry drive.

In the classroom, Olson is the model student. He was named to the FCS Athletic Director's Association Academic All-Star Team in 2018, is a three-time Academic All-Big Sky Conference selection, and maintains a 3.9 cumulative GPA with four different semesters with a 4.0. He also earned Montana's nomination for the William V. Campbell Trophy this season.

All this on top of posting the most tackles in all of Division-I football as a junior, earning a place on seven-different All-America lists, and being the only FCS player named to the preseason watchlist for the Butkus Award for the nation's best linebacker entering his senior year.

"Dante is the complete package in terms of what you want your sons to be and what you want your players to be," said Montana head coach Bobby Hauck.

"He's a terrific student, he's a great player, and he's an outstanding person. He's a giving and caring individual that is willing to do anything to help both his team on the field and others off of it."

Olson is the latest of seven Grizzlies in program history to earn a place on the Good Works Team, with Colin Dow being UM's last member in 2008 for his work with disabled kids and several Montana charity organizations. Former Grizzly stars Lex Hilliard (2007), Colt Palmer (2004), John Edwards (2002), Calvin Coleman (2001), and Dallas Neil (1998) have also been recognized for their work in the community with a place on the team.

"We've been doing things in Grizzly football that benefit kids for a long time," said Hauck, pointing to the team's annual holiday toy drive as an example.

"Our guys make a difference. And I think it's important when they make a difference in the lives of kids. It's a great message, and it's great to make that kind of impact."

Fans are invited to visit to see team bios and vote for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team captain once per day, now through Nov. 22. The team captain will be honored at The Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN later this season.

The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was selected by an esteemed voting panel, which includes Tebow and Herbstreit, along with: John O'Donnell, president of Allstate's Western Territory; Zaid Abdul-Aleem (Duke, 1994 team); Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia, 1997, 1998 teams); Brian Brenberg (St. Thomas, 2001 team); Mike Proman (Amherst, 2002 team); Wes Counts (Middle Tennessee State, 1999 team); media members Blair Kerkhoff (Kansas City Star), and Paul Myerberg (USA TODAY); Frank Solich, 2019 AFCA President and Ohio University Head Coach; and Joe Taylor, 2001 AFCA President and athletic director at Virginia Union University.

The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was established in 1992, by the College Football Association, to recognize extra efforts by players and student support staff off the field. AFCA became the governing body of the award in 1997 and continues to honor players who go the extra mile for those in need. Allstate became the presenting sponsor starting with the 2008 season.

2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team
Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)

Koby Quansah
Duke University
Denzel Goolsby
Kansas State University
James Smith-Williams
NC State University
Connor Wedington
Stanford University
Isaiah Sanders
U.S. Air Force Academy
Marcel Dancy
University of California
Jake Fromm
University of Georgia
Bryce Torneden
University of Kansas
Landon Young
University of Kentucky
Tre Tipton
University of Pittsburgh
Spencer Eason-Riddle
University of South Carolina

Combined Divisions (FCS, II, III & NAIA)

Danny Munoz
Bethel University (Minn.)
George Hatalowich
Davidson College
Ryan Landis
Frostburg State University
Josh Pearson
Jacksonville State University
Aaron Feazelle
Mississippi College
Jacob Katzer
Morningside College
Ben Ellefson
North Dakota State University
Ben Bartch
Saint John's University (Minn.)
Dante Olson
University of Montana
Ryan Oliver
Utica College (NY)
Luke Bevilacqua
Wayne State University (Mich.)

Honorary Head Coach

Dabo Swinney
Clemson University

Previous Grizzlies on the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team
1998, Dallas Neil
2001, Calvin Coleman
2002, John Edwards
2004, Colt Palmer
2007, Lex Hilliard
2008, Colin Dow
2019, Dante Olson