Provo • As he walked up the tunnel and onto the concourse at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Hans Olsen was stopped at nearly every turn.
First, it was a group of fans who flagged him down to wish him congratulations. Then it was a pair of longtime friends who pulled him aside to say hello and talk about the news of the day. And right as he was about to clear the stadium gates and walk to his car, Olsen was stopped once more by a vendor who just wanted to say how happy she was Olsen was the new color analyst for the BYU football radio broadcast.
“I don’t feel deserving of all this,” Olsen said when he finally got into his pickup truck and closed the door. “I’m grateful. I’m ready. But I don’t feel deserving.”
Olsen’s first real day on the job — attending a spring scrimmage last week — was an introduction to the role he is stepping into, and the spotlight that comes with it. He has just become a main touchpoint for a fanbase. In college football, the television crews change each week. But the radio team, that is what is consistent for hardcore fans.
And for Olsen to be in that touchpoint, it is a full circle moment. He played at BYU from 1996-2000, where he was teammates with current head coach Kalani Sitake. He earned the reputation of being a boisterous, goofy 18-year-old player with a self-admitted ego. But in the years since, the people in Provo have seen him grow up as he went to the NFL and returned to Salt Lake to host a sports radio show for the last 16 years. He became a father, a husband, ready for this new challenge.
“My life has been on display for them,” Olsen said. “What I would hope people understand is I am more proud of the person I am now than the person I was then, way more. I look at some of who I was when I introduced myself to BYU fans. I wish I could have represented myself better. And my hope is, as people have seen me grow, they have been more receptive to me being part of their broadcast. 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be ready.”
“Getting there,” he said.
“I definitely feel better about where I am at right now,” Olsen said. “That makes me feel ready. Not necessarily deserving, but ready.”
Olsen spoke with The Salt Lake Tribune about his journey, the job, his relationship with Sitake and more in a wide-ranging interview.
Has it sunk in yet?
“No, no. Never in my life did I think I would be here. This feels so much bigger than me. I have felt an amazing response from BYU fans. And that has been extremely helpful. And so I will just continue to try to figure out where I fit into all of this.”
How did this all come about? Did you want to be on the radio team for a while now?
“I wanted to be a part of that gameday so badly. Like, it burned. But I couldn’t because BYU had never reached out to me for anything, ever. BYU has its own entities. They’ve got their broadcast buildings, and they’ve got their radio personalities, and they’ve got people that are, I think, probably more deserving of the job.
“And lo and behold, I get a call from Greg Wrubell. And I was sitting down in my theater room, and my jaw dropped. Yeah, flooring. I mean, I sat there silent. And I got really emotional about it. And I was like, ‘Wow, what an incredible honor’. And then you start to think, am I capable? Am I ready? You go through all these different emotions and then you just come down to having a lot of gratitude for the opportunity.”
You have done daily radio for a long time, what is attractive about an in-game analysis that you can’t get doing radio?
“It’s energizing and it’s engaging. It’s as close to playing in a football game as I could be. Because I’m analyzing it from an offensive lineman’s mindset, which I played in the NFL. And I’m visualizing it from a defensive lineman standpoint, which I did in the NFL and did here at BYU.
“It’s just like I would as a player, but I’ve got a mic in front of me. And I get to say what I’m seeing and feeling, almost like I would be doing if I was playing. That’s exhilarating. I tried coaching high school in Idaho. And it’s almost like I’m too passionate. And I expect too much. These high school kids were wanting to go do their thing. And it just didn’t mesh with me. So I knew pretty quickly I wasn’t a coach. Radio was the closest I could get to the game.”
You have called bowl games for the last five years as a color analyst, too. Did you ever get approached about a national job calling games?
“Yes, but there was no way that I was going to be leaving my daily show. Period, couldn’t do it. And whether it was a national opportunity, or whatever the case might be, I wasn’t going to leave it.
“To leave this market, where my family is growing and where I’ve got so many roots. I can’t leave here for at least 10 years. And so I kept thinking, how can I stay and still do the in-game stuff? Then Greg called and the timing was perfect.”
Turning to this job, how will you approach being critical of the team, when you know you are also being paid by BYU?
“I’m confident that in being as informed as I possibly can, and without getting personal and attacking, I can deliver information of, ‘This area might need to improve.’ As long as I’m educated and not guessing, I feel like BYU could understand. And I feel like fans would understand that. But I am not the type of guy that is going to say, ‘This quarterback play is unacceptable and a high level of disgusting.’ That’s not how I would approach it.
My approach would be so much more analytical of what they can do at that moment. Can they change the protection? Can they use some motion? Is it the run game, the lack of run game? I can present what I see being the problem, instead of just being critical of the problem.”
What is your current relationship with Sitake?
“I would say 60 percent, or maybe 50 percent, of the reason I took this job is to represent Kalani. Yeah.
“And Aaron Roderick and Jay Hill and [the rest of the staff]. I want to represent these guys. I want to try to provide some insights during the game that shows these guys’ brilliance.
“I think college coaches are like artists to me. They’ve got this field that they’re working on and they have to discover the different mediums that can flash — that are appealing and are successful. And I just, I want to represent that as these guys work their art, you know? And try to do it verbally so that people can enjoy the art. Yeah, instead of just looking at the painting, enjoy the process of the art. Yeah. It’s pretty cool.”
Do you think you will have to set boundaries in this role, between your friendships with the staff and this new job?
“That is going to be a mini-step process. I do believe that I’ll be closer to the program, and probably have a little bit more access. But I have been able to manage information for a long period of time now. So I feel like I’ve got that pretty buttoned up.
“I don’t know how much different this will be. That’s probably another thing that’s just gonna have to organically occur. My goal in all of it would be to attempt to do right by BYU. Do right by the coaching staff. But also do right by the listeners, right by the fans. And that’s a tough thing to manage.”
During your time on the radio, have you ever butted heads with a current member of this staff over something you said?
“Only a few times. I’m not much of a fence sitter. I do have opinions. That is my job to have opinions. And to be able to have those opinions, but still maintain friendships, is great. And that is probably more on them for being understanding, or not hearing it. But those relationships are strong. And those relationships are the reason I want to be in the booth.”
Riley Nelson talked about it. Wrubell has, too. The radio team is what college fans really relate to. Have you thought about that a lot?
“I have. And I have built a lot of mechanisms in my life to deal with anxiety. And one of the mechanisms I have is to suppress the size or the magnitude of the job. And there’s a part of me that has to suppress the size of this. So I can feel comfortable in my delivery. So I will have to, in my mind, not let it be as big as what it is, right?”