ULAF invites NFL Player. To head Defense Coach in National team
“Football puts everything in its place” … This phrase is taken out of big context. But the meaning of this doesn’t become disappear. Stories of acquaintance with American Football all similar. Differences only in details, but in general – these are stories when Football really put everything in its place. So it happened with Igor Olshansky! Today I offer you an interview with a man, the first Ukrainian guy, who has made his way to the NFL! And he is sure, that he is not the last Ukrainian. And … And you know, I will not rant. At first read the interview, and you will immediately understand everything.
Denis Polubinsky (hereinafter D.P.) – A lot of information can be found about you on the Internet. In general – all about your success in career of Football player. But there is a little information about moving and about life in the USA. How it was? Your first impression of moving overseas. Do you remember something of that?
Igor Olshansky (hereinafter I.O.) – Yes, we left in 1988-th, I think, and in 1989-th we were already in the USA. The whole trip lasted for about a year. Our trip was through Italy. Then we got to San Francisco. I was just a kid. I was only 7 years old in the 1989-th year. Everything was new for me. Different people. I didn’t understand something. But since I knew that there was a family near to me, everything was fine. Then I went to school. The second grade. Nothing much happened. There were a few moments, that I had to fight with someone, but nothing serious. If we talk about sports, then I like all other kids – played, jumped and something like that. Then somehow my Dad brought the barbell at home. I was about 9 or 10 years old. And I started to work with barbell! I have been working on my biceps, triceps. Started to do push ups. Everything went as usual. Then, at the age of 12, I went to box. But not just like that. One unpleasant moment happened to me. I was 11, and I went to the other side of the city with my friends. There was such place, not very good. I was attacked. I had to fight, to defend myself! They beat me, they were older and bigger. Well, you know, they broke my nose a little bit, a lip, an eye a little bit – nothing special. That’s when I started boxing. There was some kind of a boxing room and a good coach near to my house, the champion of Moldova. His name was Jora, but I don’t remember his last name. And he had his own boxing school. We started boxing. And you know, box built my character! After I was beaten, not very much, but still at 11 years old, it was like a shock to me. There was some fear. And boxing helped me. Helped to build my character. I grew up in those days. I was already 190 cm, 6 feet and 3 inches on my 12 – 13 years old. I became very big. Started to play basketball. The sport began to lure me. The coaches knew me well, that I am tall and strong. Then I went to high school, in 9-th grade. Not everyone was taken there, only certain people, but since I was an athlete, they decided to took me. At that time, I hadn’t played football yet. At all. I didn’t know what American Football is. I trained in gym, played basketball and it was good for me. I remember, I just got to school, there was a Football coach and he immediately began to recruit me, he called me to play Football. But I did not have the excitement at that time. Later, I was probably about 16 years old, one coach approached me. He was about 70 years old. His name was Vince Tringali. Head coach at my school. When there were football games, I came, and once he noticed me. He came up and asked “Why do you only watch, why not on the field, why not playing?”, and I tell him – “I’m a basketball player”. And he is like, “Who told you that you are a basketball player, they lied to you!” (laughs). And he lit a fire in me. Plus, basketball didn’t work out very well. I was like the 6th player, I did not get into the big 5. Then I already felt that it was not mine. So I decided to try American Football. Without technics, without anything, I get on the field. Almost immediately. But I was the biggest, strongest man on the field! And in principle, that was almost all the time in my career.
I had a good speed and flexibility. Without technics, I fell a lot, I did not know how to hit, where to put my hands. They simply threw themselves at my feet, fell and I fell on top of them.
Then Vince took me in Oregon. He had a friend there, the second coach of the team. And they kind of called me to their camp. I was 17 years old, and by that time I had 197 cm of height and weight of 127 kg. BUT! I ran 40 meters in 4.8 seconds. As you understand, the scholarship was in my pocket. They said they want me to play for them. Imagine, I’ve been in football for only 2 years, and I already had a scholarship. They provided all studies, housing and food – completely.
D.P. – As I understand You can calmly live with such student program. Without salary. Is this enough?
I.O. – Yes. You have enough for food. You have enough for housing. Enough for everything. Of course, if you want to drive a car, then mom or dad should help you. And so, I’m in Oregon. Different colleges also wanted me to go to them, but since Oregon was the first, I went there. I also played without technics. But I studied. I watched someone do something and repeat. Not always succeeded. But I tried. In college, they wanted me to be the starter. I wasn’t ready, but they insisted. And I studied further. The first year for me was so-called “Red Shirt”. This is when you can train, but time does not count against your season. You only have 4 seasons in college. If God forbid the player tore something up and cannot play, there is also a “Gray Shirt”. This means that you can, in principle, have a scholarship, but not play and still have those 4 years left.
D.P. – Interesting system!
I.O. – Yes. I played the first year as a Red Shirt. The second year, the first half, I did not start, I did not want to. There was a senior in the team and he graduated. This is normal. They are older, they have priority. But then, at the end of the year, I was already starting player. Then the second season, and the third, too. I had another year left, but I decided to leave for the NFL. One agent wrote to me, showed me a whole magazine about me, which he did by himself. He said that I have a good physique and I can go to the pros. And since I already had a family and I felt inside that if I give my health to sports, then it’s time to go and earn money. Because they take a lot in college. If there is an opportunity to make money, then let’s go try to make money!
D.P. – Tell us something about Draft. What it’s like from a player’s point of view?
I.O. – Before Draft, I was at National Combine. Roughly speaking, they select 250 of the best and most promising athletes there. In Indianapolis. They check IQ, give a load on each joint, speed, strength, reaction – everything that is possible, check everything. Then they getting you into the system. According to my results, that I make a chest press 100 kg 43 times, I already knew that I was in the top 5 or top 6. I went down in history right away! Now it’s top 10…
D.P. – If there is a record, someone will try to beat it…
I.O. – Yes, it’s normal. I made 46 times after that. Now I would have already entered top 3. But I had a shoulder injury 3 months before the test. But I knew that they would take me on the first day. Draft goes for 2 days. I have been waiting, my agent arrived, the family was, they supported me, we watched. And then I saw the TV line: Igor Olshansky – San Diego “Chargers”. I immediately got a call from the team. By the place where you are chosen, you can already determine the salary and how the team will meet you. Those who are taken in the first 3-4 rounds, they are already starting. You understand that the team will invest in you. And they took me as the second. The first was Eli Manning and exchanged for Philip Rivers, then they took me.
D.P. – Awesome result! Have you ever wondered which team you want to join when you were in college?
I.O. – I did not know for sure. I wanted to play in Dallas. I flew to Dallas before the Draft. In Kansas City did not really want to play. Those cities that are not very developed, I did not want to play for them. I wanted to be closer to my home. But basically, I didn’t think that I wanted to get at some team. Because I started playing only at 17 years old. I didn’t have my favorite player, or my favorite team. Or something like me and my dad grew up on home team games – I didn’t have this. You see, Football took me because I was most suited to this sport.
D.P. – You knew that you were the best in this sport and that was enough.
I.O. – Yes. It’s like a blessing! In this sport, everything worked out for me. Everyone was reaching for me. Helped. It was my sport. I understood that.
D.P. – How was it in the first season in the NFL?
I.O. – The first season in the NFL was the best! I started. I dominated. There were almost no injuries. I was in great shape. Beat everyone, honestly. I do not want to say that it was easy, because there is nothing easy in Football. But compared to the rest of the seasons, it was easy. Because I was at the peak of my physical condition. Second season – tore the ligaments of the leg. Then the third season – tore a knee. Every year, injuries accumulated. But the first season was the brightest. And then we get into playoff! My first year, and we are in the playoff. I don’t know how many years team could not get there. But this feeling was unforgettable!
D.P. – Is there a difference when you enter the field in the NFL and in College?
I.O. – You know, in college, all the fans are young. There is a loud orchestra. Everyone screams your name. I remember how they shouted mine: Igor, Igor! Everyone knows you. And in the NFL, they are slightly different. People are older. The audience is older. You do not hear your name. You will hear it if you just do something. More like a professional everything. But it depends on where you are. Who are you playing against. Sometimes happened, that they can throw something at you. Sometimes the audience is even more aggressive. It all depends on the fans. But the game is much faster in professional Football. In college, well, maybe one person in the team will be of such a level as mine. And in professional Football, they are all almost the same as me. NFL takes the best. It’s normal.
D.P. – What else differences between the NFL and College? Maybe players?
I.O. – Yes, players are tougher. They are much larger, faster. They are even meaner. And the NFL has less friendship. Everybody are friends in College. And in the NFL everybody like going to work. It’s like work environment. Everyone has a family and everyone at the end goes home. Personally, I hadn’t problems. I felt the difference, yes! In the physical preparation of players. And in their technics. But I only played Football – a whole day of training. And you only think about Football. It simplifies everything. But NFL is long. Long season!
D.P. – Tell us something about your coaching experience. I read that you were a coach in a High school. Are you training now?
I.O. – No. I do not train anymore. I coached a local team for a couple of years. It turned out that my son was playing baseball and one man approached me. He says: “Are you Igor Olshansky?”, “Would you like to help the team?” I decided to give it a try. And I liked it! The team had a prospect. And now I have a little son. He is a three years old. And the last 3 years I have been at home. I do not train anyone. But my technics is good and only a few people know about this technic. They don’t use it here.
D.P. – Why?
I.O. – Well, it’s not in there. To feel this technics, you need to rise as a person to a very high level. Otherwise, you wouldn’t understand how to use it.
D.P. – And you tried to introduce it in school?
AND ABOUT. – Yes. I showed it to them. And I had one guy who never played Football. He was previously in rugby, played Australian Football. He came here. And team wanted to make him a Linebacker. When I came to the team, I told him: “Come here. I know what you need and what to do”. And I worked with him, worked, worked! He certainly was a little bit hard. “Hard head”, but as athlete – he was excellent.
D.P. – He continued to play Football?
I.O. – Yes. In college. He tried to play there. But now I do not know. He is probably back in home. He didn’t really like to live here. In Australia he would feel better.
D.P. – Have you ever seen the videos of American football games in Ukraine? And how did you find out about Football in Ukraine?
I.O. – I just checked everything on Instagram. Entered “Ukrainian Football”, checked, and here you are! Once Maxim came to our school, I don’t know his last name, but he seems to be Russian. He came there to learn. He asked me to show something. And I showed him everything. I knew that they were playing there. And then I saw some information on Internet, checked and saw a couple of games on YouTube. I immediately realized that you have a level like ours high school. But adults play.
D.P. – Perhaps. Will you come to Ukraine to raise the level of our game?
I.O. – Yes. I’ll come. But you need to organize everything correctly. Field, special cameras to take pictures of everything, a room with big screen to disassemble details. It’s possible. Let’s do it!
D.P. – Great news! And the last thing, what would you wish to our Ukrainian players?
I.O. – I would wish a lot of health. And so they worked hard and well. And they played friendly. Build their character. Because this sport teaches a lot. He gives a lot. It is so heavy that life around becomes easier and more understandable. Football puts everything in its place. Therefore, I wish them to excel in this sport!
Have you read it? You think this is empty talk? Hah!
Igor Olshansky in Ukraine.