Born: March 11, 1985
Gregory Olsen was born March 11, 1985 in Wayne. He was the son of a high school football coach. As a boy, Greg lived, ate and slept football, but he also excelled at basketball thanks to his above-average size and coordination. So did his big brother, Chris Jr., a quarterback who went on to play for the University of Virginia. Naturally, as the younger brother, Greg grew up as a receiver.
Greg played varsity basketball and football for Wayne Hills High School, where his father, Chris Sr., coached the Patriots. In 2002, Greg was the top-ranked prep receiver in the country and a finalist for several prestigious awards, including Gatorade Player of the Year. He finished his high school career with 73 catches, 27 touchdowns and 1,474 receiving yards. He was also a big-time defensive end.
At 6'5" and close to 250 pounds, Greg was heavily recruited as a tight end. He picked Notre Dame but changed his mind before his freshman semester began and opted for his second choice, the University of Miami. He was also tempted to go to Tennessee, which had lost Jason Witten to the draft and all but guaranteed him a starting job as a freshman.
Greg red-shirted in 2003 due to a shoulder injury, but by 2005 he had played his way into the Hurricanes’ starting lineup. He caught 31 passes in 2005 and 40 in 2006, which ranked among the Top 10 in the ACC. Miami was a Top 20 team in 2005 but fell out of the national rankings in 2006 when the Hurricanes went 7–6. In his final college game, Greg caught two passes for 45 yards as Miami defeated Nevada 21–20 in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Greg decided he was ready for the pros and announced that he would pass up his senior season. The Chicago Bears selected him with the 31st pick in the first round and spent his rookie year as a backup to Desmond Clark. They caught a combined 73 passes, with Greg accounting for 39. Chicago was the defending NFC champ, but backslid to 7–9 during the 2007 season.
Clark still started over Greg in 2008, but when he was in the game quarterback Kyle Orton looked to get him the ball as often as possible. Despite not starting a single game, he caught 54 passes and scored 5 touchdowns to lead the Chicago receiving corps. He was voted the Bears’ Player of the Year and was picked as an alternate for the Pro Bowl. In 2009, the Bears brought in Jay Cutler to quarterback the club and he connected immediately with Greg. The result was 60 receptions for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2010, Greg’s numbers dropped to 41 catches and 404 yards, mostly because of a new offensive scheme.
The Bears decided to go with Kellen Davis in 2011 and traded Greg to the Carolina Panthers for a third-round draft pick. He proved invaluable to rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who ran his way in and out of trouble and often used Greg as his safety valve. Greg finished his first season with Carolina with 45 catches and 5 touchdowns. In 2012, Greg had his best season as a pro, establishing new highs in receptions, receiving yards and yards per catch. He followed up with another fine season in 2013, reeling in 73 passes for 816 yards and 6 TDs as the Panthers went 12–4 and won their division.
Greg enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2014. He caught a career-high 84 passes and topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time. Carolina won its division and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated. Greg caught 7 passes in the postseason, and finished off the year with his first Pro Bowl appearance. He continued to excel in 2015, contributing to the Panthers’ high-octane offense with 77 catches and 1,014 yards. Both eclipsed team records for tight end previously held by Wesley Walls. Greg scored 7 TDs and notched another Pro Bowl selection. In Carolina’s run to the Super Bowl, he added a dozen more catches against the Seahawks and Cardinals, and caught 4 passes for 4 yards in the Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 loss to the Broncos.