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NDSU's Grant Olson: 'Whatever I can do to help'

by Mike McFeely

North Dakota State linebacker Grant Olson will miss the rest of the season -- meaning his playing career as an outstanding player for Craig Bohl's Bison is finished -- because of a ligament tear in his left knee. That was confirmed Monday at Bohl's weekly address to the media at the Fargodome.

"I don't see that changing," Bohl said.

That doesn't mean Olson's influence on the Bison team is finished, however. In an interview with Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, Olson said he would like to contribute as something of a coach on the sidelines during games.

"Do something special teams-wise, or something I see the opponents doing on offense ... whatever I can do to help," Olson told Reusse. 

Bohl seemed open to that idea Monday, saying that he will meet with Olson to see how the senior can contribute toward NDSU's attempt at a third straight FCS national title.

"I've often said he's the most intelligent player I've coached," Bohl said. "The skill set he brings is really unique."

While it is obvious Olson's absence on the Bison as the team's top tackler, defensive play-caller and emotional leader will not be a good thing, Bohl made clear he has confidence his veteran team has the talent and experience to continue winning.

"Within in the team, this is not a pity party," Bohl said. "It's like, next guy up let's man up and go."

Bohl said what the Bison defense did Saturday in a victory over Illinois State is what they'll do the rest of the season -- Carlton Littlejohn moved from outside linebacker to the middle to replace Olson, Essley Thorton took Littlejohn's spot on the outside and Travis Beck remained in his outside linebacker position.

The Bison may also play more nickel packages with Bryan Sheppard on the field to make up for Olson's absence.

Also of concern to the Bison is a sprained knee on All-America cornerback Marcus Williams. Bohl said Monday Williams is day-to-day and the coach is "hopeful" Williams will be able to play Saturday at Youngstown State. The Penguins have the No. 1 offense in the Missouri Valley Conference, led by efficient senior quarterback Kurt Hess.

Here is part of Reusse's blog post about Olson this morning at www.startribune.com. The entire post can be accessed here: NDSU's Olson sent to sideline with torn ACL.

Saturday's game at Youngstown State will be the first Olson has missed due to injury in his four years at North Dakota State. Grant also said he had not missed a game while playing for WayzataHigh School.

"I'm trying to think ... I don't think I've ever missed a football game because of injury,'' Olson said. "I did miss an AAU basketball game with an ankle sprain, but that's the only injury I can remember that kept me out of an athletic event.''

The injury came in what seemed routine circumstances. "I was getting in on a tackle, and all the weight wound up on my left foot,'' Olson said. "It's a play I've made a 1,000 times, but this time the knee buckled.''

Carlton Littlejohn, a junior from Minneapolis North, took over at middle linebacker after Olson was hurt. "Carlton's our do-everything linebacker,'' Olson said. "He has learned all the linebacker positions. Carlton has been an outstanding player here.'' 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)