UPDATED: From the Chet to Gillette: Thanks to late trade, Olszewski makes cut for Patriots' 53-man roster
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Beaver Territory is extending into the NFL after all.
After early reports broke the news that former Bemidji State football All-American Gunner Olszewski missed the cut for the New England Patriots' 53-man regular season roster, the defending Super Bowl champs had a change of heart.
According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, New England informed Olszewski around 11:40 a.m. Eastern time that he was going to be waived. But around 3:45 ET -- just 15 minutes before the deadline to finalize rosters -- the Patriots traded corner Keion Crossen to Houston, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
And with a roster spot opened up, Olszewski continued to beat the near-impossible odds against him and snuck onto the regular season roster, trading Chet Anderson Stadium in Bemidji for Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
“It just goes back to his work ethic,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “It’s something we obviously preach to our guys every day about how we play here. He personified it, how hard he played and what he did every day in practice, and that always showed up in games. Lo and behold, it got him an opportunity to be on an NFL roster.”
Bolte said the current Beavers learned of Olszewski’s initial fate after Saturday’s practice. The more exciting plot twist came not long after.
“We went through it as a team and explained that he got waived and has an opportunity to get picked up by other teams. And if he doesn’t, then obviously the practice squad (is a possibility),” Bolte said. “By the time (us coaches) got in and started watching film, we got the news that he got signed. So it was a pretty crazy event.”
Olszewski, a fan favorite for his can-do attitude and larger-than-life personality, impressed this preseason in his transition to wide receiver by catching five passes for 69 yards over four games. But Olszewski's value shined brightest in his return game, racking up 213 return yards between punts and kickoffs.
"He's very competitive and he works hard and he's improved," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said via conference call Friday. "He has a long way to go but he's made a lot of improvement. He's making a big jump from where he played to where he's playing now, positionally and so forth. He's improved a great deal."
The cutthroat cutdowns only proved Olszewski’s worth. New England waived veteran wideout Demaryius Thomas and second-year receiver Braxton Berrios -- to name a few -- in their efforts to trim the roster down to 53.
Olszewski has drawn comparisons to teammate Julian Edelman because of his stature and skillset. Among the native Minnesota crowd, Adam Thielen’s similar path from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference to the NFL has also been noted.
“It speaks volumes, No. 1, just to him. But then for us, it’s a huge feather in our cap,” Bolte said of Olszewski. “We had Brian Leonhardt play (in the NFL). We had seven, eight guys -- maybe nine guys -- over the last handful of years be in three-day minicamps, things of that nature. But he’s the first one that’s truly made it. It’s pretty hard to put in perspective.”
Olszewski will become the third Bemidji State alum to play on Sundays if he finds a way onto the field in the regular season. Leonhardt, a tight end, played 16 games between 2014-15 for Oakland and San Francisco, while running back Al Wolden played in three games for Chicago in 1987.
And if the turmoil of Saturday’s roller-coaster ride was good for anything, it served as further proof that not many underdog stories measure up to Olszewski’s.
“I think it’s been a whirlwind for him this morning,” Bolte said. “They ended up making a cut on their roster to make room for him. It was a pretty wild few hours.”