Greg Olsen on Charlotte being “home,” his charity and why he’s joining the Seahawks

Greg Olsen on Charlotte being “home,” his charity and why he’s joining the Seahawks
(Source: AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Greg Olsen is headed to Seattle.

But before the now-former Panthers tight end can do that, he’s got three more XFL games to call as an analyst to finish off a crazy two months. Since the 2019 NFL season came to a close, he’s been released by Carolina after nine seasons, he found a new team in the Seahawks and his son, T.J., had heart surgery.

The last event is an example of why he and his wife, Kara, took the time Friday night to host an event at Hilliard Studio Method benefiting their “HEARTest Yard” charitable partnership with the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, supporting families affected by congenital heart disease, just like the Olsens.

The Olsens have been making an impact through their work off the field for some time and Greg is a three-time nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, that honors a player who is known for stellar performance both on the field and in the community.

After quite the challenging workout, which sold out in around 24 hours, the Olsens spoke with The Observer about why this continues to be a priority despite their hectic winter and what’s next:

HOW DID THIS EVENT COME TO BE AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU TO TAKE THE TIME?

Greg: “This is something we had planned for a couple of weeks and obviously we weren’t going to bail on it. My wife got me into some of these classes this offseason, just as an alternative workout early on before I wanted to get back really going. They are just awesome workouts, a great community feel, and we just thought how fun it would be to get a bunch of guys and girls to come in here and just do a big class together and after just kind of hang out and socialize and that’s how this night was born. It sold out, waiting lists, so we’ll probably do it again and we’re just really thankful that the community continues to support us.”

Kara: “We’ll forever be indebted to Levine’s Children’s Hospital, they gave us our son. He continues to thrive because of the care he gets there, every check-up, multiple hospital stays and it’s become our family. The city of Charlotte has become our family and this forever will be home.”

HOW IS T.J. DOING?

Kara: “He had surgery on December 31, ended up back in the hospital for a short little stint, and he had a great check-up yesterday, so he’s really doing well.”

WHAT HAVE THESE PAST TWO MONTHS BEEN LIKE?

Greg: “Since New Year’s day, my son’s had two heart surgeries, we’ve been released, been on three visits (to Washington, Buffalo and Seattle), this will be third of five XFL games (this weekend). We’ve been in every city it feels like in the country, I’m ready to get home, get into a normal routine, enjoy these next couple weeks, months with the kids before I head out to Seattle for OTAs. I’m ready to get back home and just relax a little bit.”

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE SEAHAWKS?

Greg: “I was really torn. I had a handful of really good options early in the process, we were blown away by the number of teams that contacted us, we took three visits with the three teams that showed the most serious interest, and that’s kind of how it played out till the end. We had three great options, obviously with coach (Ron) Rivera and his staff, the familiarity with what they’re doing in Washington. I think the world of (HC Sean) McDermott, (GM Brandon) Beane and those guys in Buffalo, they’ve got a great team.

“I just felt that Seattle’s been special, I just feel like their track record of consistency, we’ve seen it up close and personal here in Carolina at times and obviously Russell Wilson, he’s an elite, special guy at the quarterback position, and Pete Carroll, it’s just a really elite situation and they showed so much interest in me. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

YOU’VE MADE SOME MEMORABLE CATCHES AGAINST SEATTLE...

Greg: “Hopefully they’ll welcome me back. I’ve had some good games and some not so good games, hopefully all the fans remember the good ones. I’ve had a few bad plays, but who hasn’t? I’ve had some good moments against them, obviously from 2015, really good games against them, but now it’s a new day and I’ll earn my stripes with a new team and earn the respect of a new locker room and that’s exciting to me.”

HOW HAVE YOU ENJOYED CALLING XFL GAMES THIS OFFSEASON?

Greg: “It’s been fun, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a unique challenge. It’s been good, we’ve gotten good reviews which is always nice, especially in today’s world when everybody is super negative. Kevin (Burkhardt’s) been awesome. This weekend I’ll do it with Curt Menefee, because Kirk’s on vacation. I’m going to LA tomorrow morning, so we’re gearing up, Dallas and Washington D.C. are my last two cities. Three more to go.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOUR FAMILY?

Greg: “I’ll go play in Seattle and family’s going to come out there and we’re going to embrace the city and embrace the community, but when that’s done Charlotte will be home for us. A lot of roots here, we’ve got family here, kids are in school here, so after this little year break, we’ll come back and pick back up where we left off. We’ve got a lot of work for the hospital and foundation that we have left to do, promises that we made that we fully intend to keep and this is home.

“... The family will come out (to Seattle with me), they’ll do school out there, it’s going to be a little Olsen family adventure.”