You only have to go back 52 years to find a Navy football season better than this one, back to 1963, when Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy and the Midshipmen played Texas in the Cotton Bowl for the national championship.
On Saturday, Roseville’s Trey Olsen will become a part of Navy’s season for the decades.
Olsen is a sophomore linebacker out of Oakmont High School, and it would be wrong to think he already isn’t as much a part of the team as Keenan Reynolds, the best Middie quarterback since Staubach who is tied for the all-time NCAA record with 77 rushing touchdowns. It’s just that Olsen hasn’t suited up for a game, yet. But you’ll be able to find him wearing No. 57 for the first time for the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday at home against SMU.
“He texted us this afternoon at 2 o’clock, and we canceled everything,” Olsen’s mother, Rose, said Thursday. “I got the flights, the hotel and a car in about 45 minutes. It’s the final home game for the seniors, and Keenan will break that record, and it will be really cool for Trey to be a part of it. He’s worked really hard, and he’s really earned it.”
Every week in practice, Olsen lays it out for the Navy scout team as an outside linebacker. One of his main duties is to chase Reynolds on the triple option, to quicken him up for Saturdays. So give Olsen some credit for preparing Reynolds to rush for 13 touchdowns this season and catch Wisconsin’s Montee Ball at 77. Reynolds also is 86 yards from breaking the Navy career rushing record of 4,179 established 30 years ago by Napoleon McCallum, later of the Los Angeles Raiders.
It was beyond exciting. We all knew what we wanted, how great of an opportunity we had. We had a ton of guys returning, and I think we all knew and we planted the seed early on that we had a special team and that we were going to make something special out of it this year.
Navy linebacker Trey Olsen of Roseville on the Midshipmen’s victory over No. 13 Memphis last week
It appeared the 6-foot-4, 226-pound Olsen would make the active roster out of fall camp. But he went out for two weeks with an Achilles’ injury and got buried on the depth chart in a program where everybody is enrolled on an appointment and you have dozens and dozens of de-facto walk-ons.
So Olsen spent his weekday afternoons with the scout team and his Saturdays in the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, or back in Annapolis watching Middie away games on TV. It’s been a good show. They’ve won seven of their eight games and opened this week at No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Last week, they beat former No. 13 Memphis 45-20. It was Navy’s biggest win since the Mids beat No. 2 South Carolina in late 1984.
“It was beyond exciting,” Olsen said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We all knew what we wanted, how great of an opportunity we had. We had a ton of guys returning, and I think we all knew and we planted the seed early on that we had a special team and that we were going to make something special out of it this year.”
At Oakmont, Olsen earned Capital Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. Twice, he made The Bee’s All-Metro team. As a senior, he was second-team all-state – on a 3-7 team.
“He is dedicated, focused – an old soul,” said his father, Curt. “And he’s a sweet person. I’ve never heard him say a bad word about a teammate, or even anybody. I’ve learned some things from him in that regard.”
Olsen considered Cornell and Air Force before deciding on Navy. Neither of his parents was in the military, but he has a Marine grandfather, another grandfather and a grandmother who were in the Army, and a great-grandfather on his dad’s side, the late Frederick L. Hilger, who was in the Navy and on the USS Tennessee and survived the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Trey applied to the academy, aced his interviews and gained approval from U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock’s office. By the time coach Ken Niumatalolo officially extended him a football offer, he’d already been accepted into the academy.
As a football program, the Middies are in the middle of a pretty good run. They’ve been to bowl games in 11 of the past 12 years and won five times. If they win their next three regular-season games, and then the American Athletic Conference championship game (likely foe, Temple), and then the Dec. 12 traditional game against Army, there’s a good chance you’ll see Navy in a New Year’s Six bowl, probably the Peach.
“I love how they take each game one at a time,” McCallum said in a phone interview from Las Vegas, where Navy’s most recognizable pro of recent decades is the community development director for the Las Vegas Sands Corp. “I was talking to some former players about how we used to get up and play a great game against a Michigan and barely lose. We were so high, so excited, so proud of ourselves. Then we’d overlook Yale and lose to Yale.”
Navy has been to bowl games in 11 of the past 12 years and won five times.
This Navy team is different. Navy has serious talent all over the field, and not just at quarterback. Be sure to check out 245-pound fullback Chris Swain on the flat screen. “The Swain Train” will fill it up. You don’t think he can play in the NFL?
It’s long odds Trey Olsen will ever play on Sundays, but you get the sense that as an academy graduate, he’ll be all right. Look for him, too, while his parents absorb the mid-fall awesomeness in Annapolis on the occasion of their only child’s first football appearance in the blue and gold.