Big Jake Olson all smiles as he eyes Shrine Game

Big Jake Olson all smiles as he eyes Shrine Game
Former Butte High Bulldog Jake Olson runs a pass patter during a West Side practice at Naranche Stadium.

By Bill Foley

Jake Olson is having himself a blast.

As the 6-foot-8, 245-pound former Butte High Bulldog practices with his West Side teammates in preparation for Saturday’s 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game, he cannot help but have a smile on his face.

That is what happens when you stand out as a superstar on a field full of All-Stars.

Olson appears to be primed for a big, big game when the West clashes with the East Saturday night on Daylis Stadium in Billings.

“I’m thinking I’m going to get the ball quite a bit,” Olson said after Wednesday morning practice at Butte High’s Naranche Stadium.

Olson, a talkative player with an outgoing personality most people find impossible to dislike, was careful to not give away any secrets, though he realizes the East coaches are not dummies. They have to figure the future Montana Grizzlies tight end will be a focal point of the West attack.

“I’m thinking I’m going to be a No. 1 target, so it’s going to be harder to get open,” Olson said. “They’re going to know I’m one of the guys to go to, so I’m going to be pretty pressed. That’s just going to open other guys.

“They say if you’re not going to get open, then make sure you’re guarded so other guys get open.”

Olson talked just a few feet where he officially signed with the Grizzlies on Dec. 16. That is when he took part in a signing ceremony at the center of the field at Naranche. He verbally committed to the Griz in September.

Knowing that Grizzly fans from around the state will be watching the Shrine Game to see what he can do does not give Olson an uneasy feeling of pressure. Instead, he sees it as motivation.

“It’s basically just a skill showcase to show what you can do in front of everyone,” Olson said. “I don’t have any pressure on me. I hope they like what they see and my play can make the whole Griz nation excited about me. I’d like that.”

Late in Wednesday’s first practice, West Side assistant coach Peter Joseph of Missoula Sentinel refereed to Olson as a future NFL player.

Again, Olson stays ground as he acknowledges that he knows that could be a possibility if his Grizzly career goes according to plan. In today’s game, Olson fits the mold of a prototype tight end — a former basketball player who can go up for and outbattle defenders for the ball.

“I don’t want to be too cocky, but with my size you realize it’s a big possibility,” Olson said. “But it’s only going to happen if I continue to work out, hit the weight room and just continue to get better with my skills. I definitely have the height.”

As a junior at Butte High, Olson caught 12 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns during Butte High’s 2019 run to the state championship game. Olson became more and more of a target for quarterback Tommy Mellott as the season went on, and he hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring in the Bulldogs’ loss to Bozmen in the title game.

His blocking was also a huge part of Butte High’s best rushing attack of the last decade or so.

Last season, Olson accounted for a fifth of Butte High’s receptions, catching 20 passes for 132 yards and a score. He earned an All-State selection as a tight end and an All-State honorable mention as a defensive end.

Olson, who earned a second-team all-conference nod after leading the Bulldogs to their second straight Class AA State basketball tournament in March, will play offense for the West and the Grizzlies.

He said he is not sure if he will play this fall or redshirt at the University of Montana.

“If I play, I play. If I don’t play, I don’t play,” Olson said. “But I’m ready.”

He has showed that in practice, and his West teammates have definitely noticed. A big-time play by any member of the West Side results in a celebration worthy of a walk-off home run.

“Any big play you make, it’s so reassuring that everyone has your back,” Olson said.  “You just get swarmed with guys patting you on the helmet. It just gives you this power to just want to go out and keep making big plays over and over and over.”

Olson said he has also enjoyed his time off the field this week. The West Side players and coaches are staying at the Copper King Hotel & Convention Center, where the boys have taken advantage of the pool.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s one of the funnest things I’ve ever been a part of in my whole life,” Olson said. “I’m rooming with Carter Lake (a linebacker from Hamilton). He’s basically been my brother for the last three days. Along with everyone else, it’s like the biggest family.

“It’s just smart football minds. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone is cracking jokes. We all love each other. A lot of us would have never met. Like a Class B guy would never have met a AA guy, and they’re like closer than ever. It’s just brotherhoods for your whole life, and with a ton of guys.”

Olson, who will wear No. 87 for the West, even likes the players and coaches from rival Missoula Sentinel, which won the 2020 Class AA title.

“Us Butte High guys hate the thought of Sentinel and football in the same area,” Olson said. “But with this, it’s like we all love each other now.”

The Shrine Game and its cause — raising money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane — is not lost on Olson. He is listing Tom LeProwse, who played in the first Shrine Game, as his closest relative to play in the game in the game program.

“The last family member that I had play in the game, technically, was Tom LeProwse,” Olson said. “He’s my dad’s, dad’s uncle. I don’t know that that would make him to me. Everyone has their dad or their brother. I just have a picture of good ol’ Tom LeProwse.”

Olson said his aunt Michelle Olson-Zimkus was also a patient at the Spokane hospital.

“She did something bad to her leg, and she went down when she was younger,” Olson said. “I just heard that they took so much good care of her, and she just loved it. All I hear is stories of my papa talking about how wonderful they are.”

That care and that cause will only serve to motivate Olson for Saturday’s game. He is ready to make sure he has a big game, too.

“I’m definitely going in thinking I’m going to get a lot of yards,” he said, “and a lot of touchdowns.”

— Butte Sports will profile the five Butte players on the West Side leading up to Saturday’s 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game in Billings. The other four players are Bryan Holland, Aidan Lee, Ty Raiha and D.J. Jackson.

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