Ex-Beaver Gunner Olszewski scores 1st career TDs in Patriots win

The former Bemidji State standout scored not once, but twice in a 45-0 win for the New England Patriots.

120920.S.BP.OLSZEWSKI3 Gunner Olszewski.JPG
New England Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski scores on a 38-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 6, 2020, at SoFi Stadium.
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Gunner Olszewski put on the game of his NFL career Sunday.

The former Bemidji State standout scored not once, but twice in a 45-0 win for the New England Patriots over the Los Angeles Chargers. A punt return touchdown in the second quarter provided Olszewski with his first career NFL score, which he followed with a fourth-quarter touchdown reception.

“It feels good. All the work you put in is paying off,” Olszewski said after the game. “Staying late, getting there early. It feels good. That’s the best way I can put it.”

The second-season pro returned a punt 70 yards to the house for his first career score in the second quarter, giving the Patriots a 14-0 lead. Olszewski steered clear of every defender for more than 40 yards with the ex-Beaver tip-toeing down the sideline for the final 15 yards.


Only one week ago, a penalty negated a punt return touchdown that would have been Olszewski’s first score in the NFL. He didn’t wait long to make a return trip to the end zone, and this time, the celebration would not be ruined by a yellow flag.

“When I turned around and (saw) what felt like half the team running on the field, I figured there was probably no laundry,” Olszewski said. “Last time after I scored, it was just Chase (Winovich) and Terez (Hall), I think, that met me in the end zone. I was like, ‘OK, something’s up here.’ But when all the guys came running out, I knew it was good.

“Honestly, my first thought was, ‘I’ve got to go cover a kick now. So I better get my breath. I’ve got to go out there on kickoff.’”

Even with a special teams touchdown to his name, Olszewski wasn't done yet. The former defensive back hauled in the first touchdown reception of his NFL career in the fourth quarter.

Lining up at wide receiver, Olszewski ran a seam route and caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jarrett Stidham to cap the victory.


“That was awesome,” Olszewski said. “And I think the coolest part about that was (that) me and Stidham put in so much work this offseason. Every day, we were up there, he was throwing and I was running what felt like 100 routes a day. For me and him to go in there and do that, I think it was pretty cool.”

In only one game, Olszewski managed to become Bemidji State’s all-time leader in NFL touchdowns. Tight end Brian Leonhardt scored one with the Raiders in 2014. The only other Beaver to play in the NFL, running back Al Wolden, nearly scored with the Bears in 1987, only to see the touchdown be called back by a penalty .

Olszewski has long been feared on special teams for his prowess as a kick and punt returner, though he actually only scored once on a return in college: a 72-yard punt return touchdown against Minnesota Crookston as a sophomore in 2016. He also returned an interception for a touchdown in 2015.

It’s well known that Olszewski primarily played defensive back at BSU, and never recorded a single reception with the Beavers. His touchdown Sunday was only his third catch of the season and the fifth of his NFL career. It was also his longest career reception.

Olszewski became the first Patriot since Julian Edelman in 2014 to record a punt return touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game. Only one other player -- Jaguars receiver Keelan Cole -- has accomplished the feat this season.

“He’s becoming a really dependable, very confident player. He’s a difference maker,” said Patriots wide receiver and special teams captain Matthew Slater. “We’ve felt that way all season. … You stick with it long enough, you do things the right way like Gunner has done since he’s gotten here, eventually, the play’s going to come your way. It was really exciting to see him go out and make plays today and really help this team with a fantastic effort.”


Olszewski’s 145 punt return yards Sunday are the second-most in a game in Patriots history, trailing only Mike Haynes’ 156 yards in 1976. In addition to his 72-yard return touchdown, he also returned punts for 61 and 14 yards.

Sunday’s performance lifted Olszewski to second among all NFL punt returners this season with 242 yards on only nine returns to average 26.89 yards per return. His score was just the fourth punt return touchdown in the NFL this season.

“His career is not the classic way of an NFL career, given where he came from,” New England head coach Bill Belichick said. “… Gunner's worked extremely hard and overcome a lot. He's not a big guy, but he has a big heart and he plays hard.”

Olszewski and the Patriots (6-6) will look to improve their playoff odds with a chance to move above .500 in their next game at the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at
What To Read Next
Get Local