It did not take long for Northwestern State head football coach Brad Laird to be convinced of Jake Olsen’s talent.
Laird’s belief in Olsen, the Demons safeties coach and recruiting coordinator, was reinforced Monday when Olsen was selected to attend the American Football Coaches Association’s 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute.
The 2019 AFCA 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute will take place Jan. 6 in San Antonio, Texas, alongside the annual AFCA Convention.
“I didn’t know him before I interviewed him,” Laird said. “He had several great recommendations from guys I truly trust in this industry that started the interview process – Scott Stoker, Matt Viator and Mike Collins at ULM. He had been a GA there. They all three spoke highly of him and his ability to not just coach the Xs and OS but his ability to have relationships with the young men he coaches. His roles have expanded here, and he has done a great job of not only moving from linebackers to safeties but also handling and organizing from a recruiting standpoint.”
The 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute aims to identify and develop premier future leaders in the coaching industry. Participants at the institute attend lectures targeted at emphasizing leadership in the coaching profession, ethics, influential responsibilities, career progression and family balance.
Institute selections had to submit their resumes, five references and either a 1,600-word article or a 5-minute live video on an offensive, defensive, special teams or position-specific topic of the applicant’s choosing.
Olsen, 29, is one of nine selections from the Football Championship Subdivision and one of four Louisiana-based coaches selected for the institute
“It’s an under-35 award, but age is only a number,” Laird said. “He’s very well deserving of the award and the accomplishments he has achieved. He has a constant work ethic to get better each and every day. Nothing stops him from working to get better and staying focused on what he’s doing.
“We’re looking forward to him being honored for that and the recognition Northwestern State gets to have with him on staff here.”
In two seasons on the Northwestern State staff, Olsen has proven to be a versatile multitasker who added the title of recruiting coordinator when Laird was promoted to head coach in late November 2017.
Olsen spent the 2016 season as NSUs linebackers coach before transitioning to working with the Demons safeties in 2017. Under his tutelage, sophomore Hayden Bourgeois produced a first-team All-Southland Conference season that saw him rank third in FCS in total takeaways (5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries).
Bourgeois ranked ninth nationally in interceptions per game (0.5). Led by Bourgeois, Northwestern State safeties accounted for nine of the team’s 13 interceptions and three of its 13 fumble recoveries.
During his first season coaching Northwestern State’s linebackers, Olsen helped seniors Peyton Guidry and Nick Pierotti produce career seasons. Guidry was named Stats LLC National Defensive Player of the Week in the final week of the 2017 regular season and was a two-time Louisiana Sports Writers Association Defensive Player of the Week honoree as a senior. He capped his career as a second-team All-Louisiana selection by the LSWA.
Prior to arriving at Northwestern State, Olsen was a graduate assistant at Louisiana-Monroe (205-16) and spent time at Southwestern Oklahoma State, Nicholls and his alma mater, Valley City State in North Dakota.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services