Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was one of the franchise’s all-time best during his nine-year tenure from 2011 to 2019.
After spending his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears, Olsen established impeccable chemistry with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during their time in Carolina.
Olsen eventually became the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014 to 2016.
To nobody’s surprise, he earned three Pro Bowl and two Second-Team All-Pro selections during that three-year time frame.
Olsen’s emergence as one of the league’s best tight ends helped the Panthers win 15 games and reach Super Bowl 50 in the 2015 NFL season.
Olsen is currently thriving in a promising sports broadcasting career that reflects his sharp football acumen.
This is Greg Olsen’s incredible gridiron journey.
Gregory Walter “Greg” Olsen was born to parents Chris and Sue in Paterson, NJ on March 11, 1985. He has an older brother, Christian, and a younger brother, Kevin.
Football is in Greg’s bloodlines. His dad, Chris, is a famous high school football coach in New Jersey. In fact, Chris Olsen is a member of the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Hall of Fame.
Both of Greg’s brothers played football for their high school alma mater, Wayne Hills High School.
Christian, the oldest in the brood of three, played quarterback for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Virginia Cavaliers in the college football ranks.
Kevin, the youngest, was a signal caller for the Charlotte 49ers during his college days.
Their mother Sue also had an athletic background during her days as a student. She eventually taught and coached at Manchester High School in Haledon, NJ, per NorthJersey.com’s Mike Lamberti.
Greg Olsen attended Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, NJ. He played tight end for the Wayne Hills Patriots. His dad, Chris, was his coach, and his older brother Christian, was the quarterback.
Wayne Hills assistant football coach Wayne Demikoff thought Greg stood out because of his size, speed, and strength—those physical attributes set him apart from the other kids.
It wasn’t just Greg Olsen’s physicality that made him stand out—his incredible football acumen impressed his peers to no end.
— waynehillsathletics (@whillsathletics) November 20, 2022
Greg pored over game film with his dad and his assistants every Monday evening when he was in high school. Father and son also dissected film of his Friday night games every Saturday morning.
Olsen showed glimpses of his NFL potential when he played for the Patriots from 1999 to 2002. He had 1,474 receiving yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns on 73 catches during that four-year time frame.
Greg also excelled on the defensive side of the ball for Wayne Hills. As a linebacker, he had 87 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 15.0 sacks as a senior.
It wasn’t surprising when Olsen earned New Jersey’s Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2002.
The pinnacle of Olsen’s high school gridiron career was leading the Patriots to an undefeated 12-0 season and winning their first-ever state title that year.
It was sweet vindication for his dad, Chris, who had lost seven consecutive title games prior to clinching the school’s first state championship.
Greg, the Patriots’ star tight end, hugged his dad tightly before he went to the locker room.
“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Chris Olsen told the New York Post’s Brian Costello in January 2016. “I can remember the moment like yesterday.”
Shortly after Greg wrapped up his high school football career, recruiters considered him a five-star prospect from the Garden State.
Not only that, but Olsen was also the second-highest-rated high school football prospect from New Jersey and the second-highest-rated tight end in the country, per TapIntoWayne’s Jon “Ferris” Meredith.
Olsen capped off his sterling high school football career by earning Parade Magazine, SuperPrep, and PrepStar All-American honors in 2002.
It was clear from the outset that Greg Olsen was going to become a special player in the college football ranks. He proved he was an NFL-caliber tight end during his playing days with the Miami Hurricanes from 2004 to 2006.
College Days with the Miami Hurricanes
Greg Olsen attended the University of Miami from 2003 to 2006. Olsen initially committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but transferred to Miami in the summer of his true freshman season.
It turned out Greg wanted to play for the Hurricanes all along. He committed to the Irish because his older brother, Christian, played quarterback for them.
However, Greg decided to transfer to the Hurricanes after Chris transferred to the Virginia Cavaliers football program in 2003.
“Miami was always my favorite, but sometimes you choose a school for reasons beyond what you like,” Greg told Rivals.com’s Mike Farrell. “I chose Notre Dame because it was easier on my family for both Chris and I to be on the same team. Now that we’re both leaving, we decided to do what was right for us.”
Plus, the Olsen family thought Greg would thrive in a Hurricanes football program that produced great tight ends such as the New York Giants Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II.
Greg’s first down with the Hurricanes came one year behind schedule after he redshirted his true freshman campaign due to a shoulder injury. Greg met his future wife, Kara, during his one-year hiatus from the college gridiron in 2003.
With Olsen watching from the sidelines, Miami won 11 of 12 games in the 2003 NCAA season. The Hurricanes beat their in-state rivals, the Florida State Seminoles, in the 2004 Orange Bowl, 16-14.
Olsen reported for his redshirt freshman season with the Hurricanes in the summer of 2004. He played nine games for Miami and had 275 receiving yards and one touchdown on 16 receptions that year.
The Hurricanes went 9-3 in Greg’s redshirt freshman campaign and beat the Florida Gators in the 2004 Peach Bowl, 27-10.
Olsen started all 12 games at tight end for the Hurricanes as a redshirt sophomore in 2005. He had 451 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 31 receptions as Miami duplicated its 9-3 win-loss record from the previous season.
Miami appeared in its second straight Peach Bowl in 2005. This time around, Olsen and company lost to the LSU Tigers in humiliating fashion, 40-3.
As Greg Olsen’s star rose to new heights during his college football career, he and some of his teammates also stirred up controversy off the gridiron.
Olsen and several Hurricanes football players, including Brandon Meriweather and Jon Beason, formed a rap group known as the “Seventh Floor Crew.”
Olsen, who rapped under the alias “G-Reg,” and his group composed a song with sexually-explicit lyrics in 2005. The song was about their sexual misdeeds during their college days in Miami.
Olson concluded his final season in Miami with 489 receiving yards and one touchdown on 40 receptions as a redshirt junior in 2006.
Miami had a 7-6 win-loss record that year. The Hurricanes beat the Nevada Wolf Pack in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl, 21-20.
Olsen finished his college football career with 1,215 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 87 receptions.
Little did Greg Olsen know that he would make NFL history in a few years’ time and become one of the best tight ends who had ever worn Carolina Panthers black, blue, and silver.
Pro Football Career
The Chicago Bears made Greg Olsen the 31st overall selection of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Olsen recorded his first NFL touchdown in a Week 5 game against the Bears’ fierce NFC North division rivals, the Green Bay Packers—one of the most memorable catches in his 14-year pro football career.
In Chicago’s first series on the 20-yard line after middle linebacker Brian Urlacher forced a turnover, the Panthers ran a play they called “boom.”
After the Bears moved the sticks several plays later, Olsen leaped for a pass from Bears quarterback Brian Griese. However, the Packers defender shoved him out of bounds before he could plant his feet in the end zone.
Fortunately for Olsen and the Bears, a force-out at the time counted as a touchdown. It was a memorable milestone considering Olsen sat out Chicago’s first two regular-season games and wore a knee brace in the Bears’ next two outings.
“First-ever touchdown. I was very excited,” Olsen told Panthers.com’s Max Henson 12 years later. “This felt amazing.”
Olsen founded Receptions for Research:The Greg Olsen Foundation during his third year with the Bears in 2009. He launched the foundation, which focuses on cancer research, as a tribute to his mother, Sue, who survived breast cancer during Greg’s high school days in New Jersey, per Lamberti.
One of the foundation’s biggest fundraisers, the “Kicks for a Cure Kickball Tournament,” was held every summer at Grant Park in Chicago, IL. The event typically drew an average of 1,000 participants.
Every touchdown from the Bears last playoff win, which happened to be on this day 12 years ago 🎥:
Jay Cutler: 2 TD’s
Greg Olsen: 1 TD
Chester Taylor: 1 TD
— Bear Down Blog (@BearDown_Blog) January 16, 2023
Fast forward three years after Olsen’s first-ever NFL touchdown and he scored another one he won’t soon forget.
The Bears, who won an average of eight games per year in Olsen’s first three seasons in the Windy City, won 11 games and clinched the NFC North division in 2010.
Chicago squared off against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round, played in January 2011—Olsen’s first-ever postseason game.
Seattle was coming off its victory against the New Orleans Saints that featured Marshawn Lynch’s incredible “Beast Quake” run. Olsen showed the Seahawks he also had a few tricks up his sleeve on this snowy day at Soldier Field.
On third-and-short, Olsen broke loose from his defenders and hauled in a 58-yard touchdown bomb from quarterback Jay Cutler in the game’s third play.
Olsen’s touchdown was the first of 28 unanswered points that carried the Bears to a 35-24 victory over the Seahawks.
Unfortunately, Chicago lost to the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, 21-14. That turned out to be Greg Olsen’s final game with the Bears.
The Bears traded Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third-round selection in the summer of 2011. Olsen agreed to a four-year, $24 million contract extension prior to the trade, per ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson.
According to the Chicago Sun Times’s Jeff Agrest, the Bears’ hiring of new offensive coordinator Mike Martz prior to the 2009 NFL campaign was an indication that Olsen was on the bubble.
Martz did not emphasize tight end play in his offensive schemes, so some experts thought Olsen was already expendable by the time he entered his third NFL season.
Prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, Bears manager Jerry Angelo summoned Olsen into his office and informed him about a possible trade with the New England Patriots.
However, the deal never went through after New England drafted tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez that year.
Angelo met with Olsen after the draft and informed him that the Bears were not interested in potential trades for him. However, Chicago traded Olsen to the Panthers less than a year later.
Despite the turn of events, Olsen did not harbor a grudge against Angelo and the Bears organization.
“I know it ended the way it did, but my memories and experiences in Chicago, I love that city, the fans, and playing there,” Olsen told the Chicago Sun Times in the fall of 2021. “Jerry obviously traded me, but he was good to me; he drafted me. I have no ill will toward any of those guys.”
Greg Olsen is the only receiver Cam Newton needs pic.twitter.com/w99XdpOYMk
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) November 8, 2015
Olsen’s first year in Carolina coincided with those of first-year head coach Ron “Riverboat Ron” Rivera and highly-touted rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
Those three men would play a pivotal role in the Panthers’ Super Bowl aspirations over the next several years.
Olsen and veteran player Jeremy Shockey—another product of the Miami Hurricanes program—shared tight end duties for Carolina during the 2011 NFL season.
Olsen had 545 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 45 receptions in his first year in Panthers black, blue, and silver. Carolina won just six games in 2011 and extended its postseason drought to three years.
After Shockey retired following the 2011 NFL campaign, Olsen became the Panthers’ full-fledged starting tight end. Olsen responded with a combined 1,659 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 142 receptions over the next two seasons.
With Olsen playing at a high level, Carolina won 12 games—its best showing since the 2008 NFL campaign—clinched the NFC South division title, and reached the NFC Divisional Round in 2013.
Olsen continued his philanthropic efforts during his playing days with the Panthers. Apart from his cancer research foundation, he and his wife Kara also founded The HEARTest Yard, a Charlotte, NC-based organization that assists children with congenital heart disease and their families in 2013.
According to the Panthers’ official website, the couple launched The HEARTest Yard after doctors diagnosed their unborn son, TJ, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).
Greg Olsen was a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2017 and 2018.
Olsen kicked his game into high gear and made NFL history midway through his nine-year tenure with the Panthers.
Olsen never caught for fewer than 1,008 yards from 2014 to 2016 and became the first tight end in league history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 8, 2017
Consequently, Olsen earned two Second-Team All-Pro and three straight Pro Bowl selections during that memorable three-year span.
At that point, Greg Olsen had cemented his legacy as one of the greatest tight ends in Carolina Panthers franchise history.
“He’s a special man,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told ESPN’s David Newton (via Bleacher Report’s Alec Nathan). “One thing people don’t realize about Greg is his knack for understanding football. His IQ is up there. It makes my job a lot easier, especially throwing to him.”
Olsen’s rise in the NFL tight end ranks helped the Panthers win two straight division titles from 2014 to 2015.
Carolina had a league-best 15-1 win-loss record and reached the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history in 2015.
The Panthers squared off against Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately, the Broncos were too much for the Panthers. Denver easily prevailed, 24-10.
Despite the humbling loss to Denver, Greg Olsen took comfort in the fact that he was one of the league’s best tight ends of that era.
“From ’13 to ’16, those four years, there wasn’t a lot more productive guys at my position. And that’s something I’ll always be proud of,” Olsen told The Athletic’s Joseph Person in December 2019—his last year in Carolina. “I wasn’t always the best athlete. I wasn’t always the strongest, fastest guy. But (I) took a lot of pride in how I played.”
Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also told Person that Olsen was one of his toughest covers whenever the Giants and Panthers played against each other.
Fewelll, who dubbed Olsen a “pain in the a–,” thought Carolina was tough to play whenever Olsen and Newton were on the same page—which happened most of the time.
A foot injury limited Greg to just 16 games from 2017 to 2018. Prior to that injury, Olsen had not missed a game since his second season with the Chicago Bears in 2008.
With Olsen seeing limited action, Carolina won an average of nine games from 2017 to 2018. The Panthers never made it past the NFC Wild Card Game during that two-year time frame.
Shortly after Greg Olsen concluded his eighth pro football season in Carolina, he donated $100,000 to the Miami Hurricanes’ indoor practice facility in February 2018.
Olsen’s donation ramped up the school’s funding for the $34 million facility to $2 million. More than 80 former Hurricanes players have made donations to the project.
Miami renamed a position coach’s office to “The Greg & Kara Olsen Assistant Football Coach’s Office” in recognition of Olsen’s donation.
As Greg Olsen’s pro football career wound down, he spent his offseasons as an assistant coach of the South Charlotte Cardinals, a youth baseball team based in rural Tennessee.
Olsen’s older son, Tate, was the team’s first baseman. His younger son, TJ, was one of the team’s pinch runners.
Even though Greg’s sons were on his baseball team, he didn’t spare them from his occasional tirades. His fiery demeanor on the baseball diamond even surprised some of his peers.
Olsen admitted to Person in the summer of 2019 that he would have been restless doing nothing at home during the offseason. Coaching youth baseball became a therapeutic outlet for the Panthers’ tight end.
“This is where I’m gonna coach in my day. I love this,” Olsen told Person. “This is a lot of fun. This is right in my wheelhouse. I don’t need to go on fancy vacations. I enjoy my summer doing this, going for pizza, go home.”
Greg Olsen got a huge ovation during his last game in Carolina.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 11, 2021
Although Greg Olsen had the makings of a fine baseball coach, his post-football career lay in the broadcast booth.
Olsen capitalized on some television opportunities during his time with the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2019.
The sports analyst bug had bitten Olsen, who called two NFL games and five XFL games while he was still playing for the Panthers.
Olsen told the Chicago Sun Times in 2021 that his broadcasting opportunities eventually snowballed to the point where embarking on a football analyst career after his playing days became more and more realistic.
While Olsen’s sports broadcasting career was slowly gaining traction, his days in Carolina were coming to an unfortunate end.
Olsen had 597 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 52 receptions in the 2019 NFL season. Alas, the Panthers won just five games and missed the postseason in Ron Rivera’s final year in Carolina.
Olsen followed suit several months later. Olsen and the Panthers mutually agreed to part ways on February 3, 2020.
“On the field, I will always cherish the nine seasons we shared together,” Olsen told Panthers.com. “Regardless of what path we choose, I will always be a Carolina Panther.”
At the time of Olsen’s departure from the Panthers organization, he had set franchise records among tight ends in receiving yardage (6,463), catches (524), and 100-yard receiving games (10).
Only Wesley Walls’s 44 career receiving touchdowns exceed Olsen’s 39 among tight ends in Panthers franchise history.
Only Steve Smith, Sr. and Muhsin Muhammad racked up more career receiving yardage and receptions than Olsen, per Panthers.com.
— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) October 27, 2022
Olsen spent his 14th and final pro football season with the Seattle Seahawks.
According to ESPN (via NFL.com’s Nick Shook), Olsen signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Seattle on February 18, 2020. The contract also included $5.5 million in guaranteed money.
Olsen played in 11 games and started eight for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in 2020. He had 239 receiving yards and one touchdown on 24 receptions in his only season in the Emerald City.
Although Seattle had a gaudy 12-4 win-loss record in the 2020 NFL season, the Seahawks lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2020 NFC Wild Card Game, 30-20.
Greg Olsen announced his retirement from the National Football League just several days later. He had 8,683 receiving yards and 60 touchdowns on 742 receptions in his 14-year pro football career.
Olsen signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Carolina Panthers organization on March 11, 2021.
Greg Olsen, his wife Kara, and their children Tate, TJ, and Talbot currently reside in New Jersey.
Olsen wasted no time in launching his promising sports broadcasting career as soon as he retired from pro football following the 2020 NFL season.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 24, 2021
Olsen announced that he was joining FOX Sports as a football analyst on FOX NFL Sunday on January 24, 2021.
The network promoted Olsen and his broadcast partner Kevin Burkhardt—both New Jersey natives—to number one NFL broadcast duo status on May 31, 2022.
Olsen and Burkhardt replaced Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who left FOX Sports to join ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast.
Olsen’s son, TJ, had three open heart surgeries before undergoing a heart transplant in the summer of 2021. Olsen told USA TODAY’s Chris Bumbaca that his son was doing well five months after the transplant.
Olsen usually takes a flight back home after his broadcasting commitments on Sundays. He then spends time with his wife and three children on Mondays.
Greg typically starts his prep work for the games on Tuesdays. However, the nature of the job allows him to work wherever and whenever he pleases.
According to Bumbaca, Olsen spends weekdays with his family if he has no Thursday Night Football studio commitments. If he has free time, Greg picks up his kids from school, coaches flag football, or watches his children’s soccer games.
Mindset and approach is at the core of @DangeRussWilson success.
But how do we take that approach and apply it to the youth sports experience?
— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) April 20, 2022
Greg Olsen co-hosts the Youth Inc. Podcast, Audiorama’s flagship podcast that focuses primarily on youth sports.
Some of Olsen’s past guests include Russell Wilson, Jerry Rice, Cooper Manning, and Eric Weddle.