The small player from the small town has turned out to be a big-time player for the Northern State football team.
Standing at just 5-feet, 9-inches, Chance Olson went from the maroon and gold of Langford Area and nine-man football to the maroon and gold of NSU and NCAA Division II football.
“A 5-9 kid coming out of Langford, South Dakota, it was kind of difficult to understand what I was going to be going up against,” Olson said of his freshman season. “I had some great teammates that year that kind of took me under their wing. It was a fast transition, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Olson found himself on the field as a true freshman and has been a staple of the squad ever since. Last year was scheduled to be his senior season, but COVID changed all of that. Now, Olson is gearing up for one more year with the Wolves.
“It absolutely was hard. When you train all year for those 11 games and get that taken away it was heartbreaking,” Olson said. “But I have some pretty awesome teammates and coaches. We all stuck together.”
Olson said there was no doubt in his mind that he would be coming back for his final campaign this fall. He said this year feels much different than past years because he knows this will mark his final opportunity to compete.
“It definitely does feel different, whether it’s on purpose or not, it’s in the back of my head,” Olson said. “I have a little bit of urgency, thinking that this is going to be, no matter what, my last fall camp, my last games here at Northern State as a senior. You definitely start thinking about that a little bit and it pushes you a little bit harder.”
There have been a lot of changes since Olson first stepped on campus. Gone is the grass practice field and soon the new Dacotah Bank Stadium will host its first game.
“We were the last freshmen to be on the old practice field. We got to go from that to the new practice field,” Olson said. “We got to practice on that and we thought that was a pretty cool deal. We always heard about the stadium, but now you can actually see it. It’s mind blowing for sure.”
What hasn’t changed from the first time Olson stepped on campus is his ability to make up for his lack of size and play big in the Wolves secondary. Olson proved from his first game that he was not going to back down from a challenge.
“I can’t grow anymore. I’m going to be 5-9 the rest of my life, so I’m going to have to learn to play with that. But I really do like it, going against someone bigger, stronger, faster,” Olson said. “I feel like they kind of underestimate you a little bit. You can come out and hit them in the mouth a little bit. It’s kind of an eye-opener if you can really do that. I think of it as a challenge every time. I just try to rise to the occasion and do the best that I can.”
If anything, Olson said that his size is actually a blessing when it comes to the footwork necessary to play defensive back.
“A lot of that has to do with center balance,” Olson said. “Being as small as I am, I have a pretty low center of balance. That really helps a lot with that.”
Of course, having sprinter speed doesn’t hurt anything, either.
Olson is a past state champion sprinter in track and field.
That breakaway speed has allowed him to return punts for the Wolves, and makes him a threat to go the distance any time he intercepts a pass.
“The first pick I had two years ago it was weird,” Olson recalled. “I had the ball in my hands and people were running at me. I had to take a second to think about what I was supposed to do.”
Olson plans on returning to his roots once his playing days are over to farm near Langford.
He still goes back to his alma mater on occasion, but notices a lot of differences when he walks into the weight room.
“I’ll come in and there will be a kid that I saw in 4th-5th grade and they’re taller than me now as a freshman-sophomore and I’m kind of like, ‘Where did you come from? You grew pretty fast.’ It’s kind of crazy to see,” Olson said.
What also went pretty fast was Olson’s time at NSU. During his college career he has transformed from a freshman, who was nervous to introduce himself to others, into a senior leader who is ready to introduce himself to opposing receivers with major impact one last time.
“I’m just excited about this year,” Olson said. “Between the new stadium, new coaches, new players, we’re just excited to just come out and play some ball.”
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