EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Talent got Seth Olsen into the NFL. Persistence has kept him there.
Four years after leaving Iowa’s football program, Olsen has bounced through three organizations and was inactive for a year waiting for a chance. But Olsen never wavered on his goals of staying in the league, and now he’s fighting for his chance as a backup offensive lineman with the Minnesota Vikings.
“My faith is what carries me through my whole life and the strength that I draw from my family,” Olsen said at the Vikings’ recent mini-camp. “That keeps me going through the obstacles that I face, just knowing that God will take care of everything for me.”
Olsen, 27, was a second-team All-American guard at Iowa following the 2008 season. Denver drafted Olsen in the fourth round, and the Omaha, Neb., native played in three games in 2009. He was cut before the 2010 season and joined the Vikings’ practice squad that season.
After the Vikings cut him following 2011 training camp, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts and started one game. Last year he started four games and played in the Colts’ wild-card loss to Baltimore. He signed a free-agent contract with Minnesota this off-season.
“I’m familiar with this coaching staff and this offensive system,” he said. “So it’s good to get back in with a program that I’m familiar with and not have to build all new relationships and not build an offensive system. It’s good to have that continuity.”
Olsen, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 312 pounds, has worked at guard and center this off-season. He’s never played center before, but he was taking second-team repetitions during the team’s mini-camp last week.
“I played guard most of my career,” he said. “Center is something new to me, but in the NFL if you don’t start, you need to be able to play both positions inside or guard and tackle. I know that’s something that to have a career in the NFL, I need to be versatile and play a couple of positions.”
He’s also frequently banging heads with former Iowa teammate Christian Ballard, who is a second-team defensive tackle in Minnesota. The pair were teammates in 2007 and 2008 and have a healthy respect for one another.
“Seth is awesome. He’s good competition,” Ballard said. “I always liked going against him. It’s a flash to us back in Iowa. He knows me, and I know him. So it’s always a battle of the minds. We know what one person’s going to do. He knows what my moves are. I know what his moves are. So it’s fun going against him. I always have a good time playing against him. It’s pretty good competition.”
Olsen’s passion stretches well beyond the football field. In January 2012, Olsen spent 10 days in Uganda helping implement water projects for Lifewater International. He called providing clean water around the world “very near and dear to my heart.”
“Eight hundred million people in the world don’t have access to clean water and a toilet,” Olsen said. “So I just know it’s something that is very precious and needed in the developing world.”