The opportunity to play for a proven wide receiver coach at the FBS level, plus be reunited with two of his former high school teammates, was something Jackson Olsen couldn’t pass up.
The soon-to-be Ridgeline High School senior has verbally committed to play football at Utah State University. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver pledged his commitment to the defending Mountain West champions Saturday morning on Twitter.
“Since I can remember, playing college football has been my dream and I’ve been blessed with the athletic ability to do so,” Olsen posted. “I want to thank the staff at Utah State for believing in me. I’m beyond blessed and grateful to announce my commitment to Utah State!
“I want to thank my family and all those who have sacrificed their time to make this possible.
“I also want to thank the Man above for blessing me with the athletic ability and the understanding of the game.”
The Herald Journal was able to catch up with Olsen, who was offered a scholarship by the Aggies a month ago. The son of Jill Douglas and Jared Olsen is looking forward to working with Kyle Cefalo, USU’s wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator. Under the tutelage of Cefalo, Utah State’s three-headed receiving monster of Deven Thompkins, Derek Wright and Brandon Bowling were able to amass 3,329 yards and 31 touchdowns on 206 receptions during the 2021 college football season.
“It means a lot,” said Olsen, who plan on enrolling at USU right after he graduates from Ridgeline. “From the first day that I met coach Cefalo, I could really tell that he was just a really good guy. And I was able to watch a few practices and see just how he coached. Sometimes you think of a college coach as this really mean guy who’s on his players a lot, but the thing I like about him the most is he’s really positive about what he does, so I’m looking forward to playing for him. ... He’s the main reason I committed (to USU).”
Olsen will also have the rare opportunity to play Division I football with two of his former high school teammate in 2022 Ridgeline graduates Noah White and Will Booth. White and Booth, who were both first-team all-state selections as seniors, signed with the Aggies as preferred walk-ons a few months ago.
“So Will is actually my cousin, my second cousin, and Will was a very good vocal leader on the team, and I’m looking forward to playing with both of them a lot,” Olsen said. “Noah, I got really close with Noah this past year and he’s more of a shows-you-what-to-do leader, kind of more quiet. But those are both of my guys and I love them both a lot, and obviously we have really good chemistry and we trust each other a lot. I mean, to have somebody that you grew up with in the same locker room at a different level’s going to be something special.”
Like Booth and White, Olsen was a first-team all-state performer for the undefeated Riverhawks in 2021. Ridgeline capped off a 13-0 season by blowing out Dixie, 45-20, in the 4A state championship game. The Riverhawks won all 13 of their games by double digits, including 11 by 25 or more points.
Olsen was a nightmare matchup for opposing cornerbacks with his 6-3 frame, 80-inch wingspan and all-state track & field speed and leaping ability. No. 1 ranked first on the team in receiving yards (1,125) and tied Strat Simmons for the top spot with 17 touchdown receptions. Simmons and Olsen both finished with more than 1,110 yards receiving. Olsen, who caught 63 passes, also rushed for 55 yards and one TD on just four carries.
Olsen eclipsed the century marks in receiving yards in wins against Logan, Box Elder, Mountain Crest and Bear River, and racked up at least 70 yards through the air in six other games. The explosive Riverhawks averaged 45.2 points and 488.0 yards of total offense an outing last fall.
Ridgeline will need to replace a host of seniors off the best team in program history, including three-year starting quarterback Kaden Cox. Olsen has been tasked with being the starting signal caller for the Riverhawks in 2022.
“So I actually grew up playing quarterback,” Olsen said. “My junior year was the first time I have played a different position other than quarterback. Obviously, I’m not Kaden Cox because that dude’s special, but he’s more of a Tom Brady kind of guy and I’m more of a Lamar Jackson I guess you could say. But we have two very different styles of play, but I’m ready for it and I’m ready for the challenge. I’m just looking forward to it and it’s going to be a good year.”
Olsen is relishing the chance to be more of a vocal leader this season. The Providence resident took a backseat in that role a year ago because Ridgeline had so many three-year starting seniors.
“This year I kind of want to show that I’m not afraid of being (a vocal leader) and I want to just be there for anybody on the team, and just really continue the great culture that those seniors last year and the year before built at Ridgeline,” said Olsen, who was offered a scholarship by the University of Idaho a couple of weeks ago.
In addition to being one of the top wide receiver in the 4A classification as a junior, Olsen also emerged as a standout in track & field. Olsen was the Region 11 champion in the high jump and the bronze medalist in the 100-meter dash, plus he was a 4A state finalist in both events. Olsen has personal records of 11.10 seconds in the 100 and 6 feet, 4 inches, in the high jump.
At USU’s Elite Camp on June 6, Olsen showcased his athleticism by clocking in at 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and posting a mark of 10-3 in the broad jump. Olsen was able to receive a lot of encouragement from coach Cefalo that day, which meant a lot to him.
“I worked a lot with coach Cefalo and I struggled that day a little bit ... but he was really positive about it and he said, ‘I know you’re a great player or else I wouldn’t have recruited you. I know what I saw on film,’” Olsen said. “But he just basically told me he trusts me and he built my confidence up, and every route (I ran) after that I just did better and better.”