His friends are planning a worthy send off tonight to honor a great football coach in Chris Olsen.
And at Wayne Hills High School, it’s not difficult to thank a man who took a football program in 1987 and transformed it into one of the best in New Jersey.
Fifteen trips to a state sectional final.
Eight state championships.
A 55-game winning streak from 2004-2009.
263-94-6 in 34 seasons as a head coach.
Two hundred players from Olsen’s days as a head football coach at St. Cecilia, Bergenfield, Paterson Eastside and Wayne Hills going on to play college football at 76 different schools, including three Ivy League universities, West Point, Annapolis, Rutgers and Miami (Fla).
Olsen became a media favorite, in a not-so-nice way, simply because the art of kissing the media’s you-know-what was never his thing. He was the ultimate bull in a china shop.
And you know what? He didn’t care. Olsen’s coaching career was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way’. His loyalty to his players, assistant coaches and most of all, his family, was paramount for him.
His former players will tell you stories of above and beyond the call of being there, of helping them go on to college and pushing them to their limits as young men to be better people.
When storm clouds formed, the media pounced. In 2011, an incident at a party involving some Wayne Hills players on Halloween Eve became a feeding frenzy.
Holier-than-thou writers would jump in and criticize the man, not knowing him at all. One article after the other came out, with most of the paragraphs nothing more than copy-and-paste garbage, with no background research, other than to pile on.
One newspaper went as far as drawing a hideous cartoon depicting Olsen as some kind of tyrant, basically ordering his players to attack.
Olsen was told to suspend his players, then told not to. Then on the near-eve of a championship game, he was told to suspend them again. So he went into a state final at MetLife Stadium without 10 starters and Wayne Hills still won its eighth state title, 15-12, over Old Tappan on Dec. 3, 2011.
When the smoke cleared, Olsen endured while the media slandered this man’s name, then ran off to another assignment.
So, it’s back to the Wayne Hills community, most of whom never quit on their coach. And tonight, they’ll say thanks, along with Olsen’s family, to a man who has loved his family, loved his players, loved his coaches and showed respect when given respect.
It’s what a man does.
You never heard much about Olsen’s work with raising money for breast cancer. You never heard about the former Wayne Hills player who went on to West Point and later flew a flag over Afghanistan to honor Olsen while flying a mission in hostile conditions. You never heard from a player at Eastside who says Olsen ‘saved his life’ and today is a successful lawyer. You never heard from the press secretary for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on how Olsen shaped his career while at Wayne Hills. You never heard from a highly successful journalist today who learned about thriving while playing for Olsen at St. Cecilia. You never heard about Olsen’s generosity when a Wayne Valley student needed help. You never heard when Olsen came to the aid of an Essex County football coach whose son has a rare disease by donating memorabilia to help in a fundraiser. You never got wind when Olsen went out of his way to donate items for ALS Research.
The stories the media didn’t write about. Chris Olsen (center) joined by Michael Krause (right) and Mitchel Krause at the 2011 Father-Son Beefsteak. Michael Krause, a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a helicopter pilot for the National Guard in Afghanistan, flew the American Flag during a mission to honor Olsen and the influence Olsen had on his upbringing.
And if you ask about 200 more kids, many of whom are now adults with families of their own, they’ll tell you similar stories.
It’s what most in the media never understood, because it was too small-minded to try and figure out.