Posts tagged tight end
Greg Olsen plays in the National Football League as a tight end for the Carolina Panthers. He started his career with the Chicago Bears in 2007. He has been through a lot in the league, but he had his toughest challenge off the field. During the offseason in 2012 Greg and his wife, Kara were ecstatic when they received the great news of Kara being pregnant with twins. They already had one son and now their family was about to get bigger.
Sadly they got news that one of their babies would be born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD), called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Thankfully Greg and Kara went to Levine Children’s Hospital where both babies were born. Their son TJ has CHD and he needed a few operations on his heart. Now almost a year and a half has passed and TJ is doing well.
The Olsen’s wanted to help out other families who would deal with CHD. They set up “T.J.’s ‘HEARTest’ Yard” program under their Receptions for Research foundation. This program provides families of babies affected by CHD with many programs that include in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy as well as more outstanding services.
Greg was kind enough to chat with me about his family’s journey with TJ and CHD, his foundation, and a bit of football.
Art Eddy: The second week of February is CHD Awareness Week. I am very grateful for you to take the time and talk about how CHD impacted your family. Two years ago when you found out that TJ had CHD what was going through your mind at that point?
Greg Olsen: It was scary. Up to that point we really didn’t know anyone who had a congenital heart defect. We got the news that he was going to be born with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It came to us as a great shock. We were obviously scared. There was a lot of uncertainty. It was something as a family that we had to work through.
We have had unbelievable doctors and the care that our son was able to have here. We were very fortunate that he is almost a year and a half. He really has come a long way.
AE: Reading up and watching videos on your family’s journey it looks like TJ’s battle with CHD made you guys a stronger family. You don’t sweat the minor things. It is incredible to watch the strength that these kids have as they battle with CHD. As a father how did you try and keep it together for the rest of the family while TJ was going through his procedures?
GO: It was hard. We had our weak moments. We definitely had our moments where we could have handled it better. You just try and do the best you can. We took it one day at a time. We would try not to get ahead of ourselves trying to predict the future.
That worked for us. Worrying about the moment now. What is the best thing that we can do for the long term health of our child, but what could we do today? It wasn’t what can we do in six or eight months. We got the diagnosis early before the babies were born. It gave us a lot of time to help prep ourselves. It also gave us a lot time to sit back and worry. It was a tough time there before the babies were delivered.
Once they were delivered I think it was nice to just move forward to the surgery. At that point it became real as opposed to just sitting around waiting.
GO: Receptions for Research is our family’s foundation. In the past year or so we started the “HEARTest Yard” program with Levine Children’s Hospital here in Charlotte. This is where TJ has had all his surgeries. That is where we have gotten all our medical care.
We approached them about starting a cutting edge, never been done before privatized health care program. Administered by the hospital, but completely funded by us through our foundation. It is done either by us personally or by our fundraising efforts. It brings that world class care from the hospital and bridges it into the home.
That is the biggest thing that we felt we could have used. More help to bring in specialists. Bringing in nursing care. Bringing in physical therapists. All of those things. That is really the inspiration of what the program is. There is a handful of families that have already started in the program. We continue to get unbelievable feedback about the efforts to help the family’s peace of mind and more importantly the health and future of the baby. It really has been positively received and we are very excited about it.
AE: How can people help your foundation out?
GO: They can visit our website, Receptions for Research dot org. One of our main pages there will be the “HEARTest Yard” link. It will bring up all of our future events. It will give ways that people can sponsor. It will give a little more information about the actual program. It will give more information on what Hypoplastic Left Heart is. They can pretty much get everything about the foundation, the hospital, what actually HLHS is all on the website.
AE: How has becoming a dad changed you?
GO: You learn a lot as a person. You learn a lot as a family. It is the most scary, the most nerve racking, but also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being able to come home and see these kids every day. All three of them run to the door now. They say hi and their eyes light up. It is just something special. Until someone is a father it is really hard to explain it to them. I could go on for what it means to me. Especially what has gone on in our family over the past year has made it even that more special.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?
GO: It is not going to be easy. There is no manual. It is not just come home and play catch all day. There is a lot of work. You need to put the time in to teach your kids on how they are supposed to act. Everything they learn is from you as their parent and as their dad. Especially the different relationships depending if you have a boy or a girl and the different dynamics that are in those relationships.
You kind of just learn on the fly. That’s at least what I did. You are not perfect, but you try to be the best you can for your children.
AE: Switching to the NFL. You and your team the Carolina Panthers started off rocky, but finished strong to get the number two seed in the NFC. What did you learn about your team this season?
GO: We really came along way. We were able to accomplish a few of our goals. We won the division. We were able to make it to the second round of the playoffs. We were able to accomplish some of our goals. Obviously we fell a little short of the ultimate goal of making it to the Super Bowl. It is something to at least build off of. We are eager to get started again and make another run.
GO: Probably sometime in the next couple of weeks. I will start back up my training. Start getting everything lined up to get prepared physically and put all of that inline. I have taken the past few weeks just hanging with the family. Each day we take a few trips with the kids. Just trying to be around here and taking them to school, picking them up from school, and being there for dinner. That is something this time of the year that you have to take advantage of. I will get back to my training in a few weeks.
AE: Growing up did you have a NFL team that you would root for and did you have a favorite player?
GO: No I didn’t. I grew up in Northern New Jersey right outside of New York. So the New York teams were very prevalent up there. We would follow them there. They were the local games. So I guess them, but we were more into college football games. College football was something that was more on our horizon when we were growing up and getting into high school. I don’t think any of us could have imagined playing this long in the league. It is something that is incredible, but I don’t know if it was something I thought I could do all along. So I would say college sports was more of a bigger deal growing up.
Anthony Becht played 12 years in the NFL at the tight end position. In his career he has played for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Kansas City Chiefs. Since retiring Becht is still involved with football. He works for ESPN and is the Buccaneers Pre and Post Game Host for 620 WDAE.
Recently he has teamed up with Mohan’s Custom Tailors and the Doe Fund to help those in need this holiday season. Mohan’s is looking for people to donate suits or overcoats that they don’t use anymore. This charity event kicks-off a holiday season of giving at Mohan’s. When people come in and donate their suits they will receive a $100 credit toward a new custom tailored overcoat. Then those donations will be cleaned and donated to charity.
I was able to chat with Anthony about his playing days in the NFL, fatherhood, the work he is doing with Mohan’s and the Doe Fund, and this current season in the NFL.
Art Eddy: Let’s talk about the great work that you are doing with Mohan’s Custom Tailors and the Doe Fund to help those in need this holiday season.
Anthony Becht: I really think it is outstanding. I have teamed up with Mohan’s Custom Tailors after my career. Just for the fact that they have some great suits. They wanted to team up and work together to work with a charity each and every month of 2014. To kick off the year they are going to work with the Doe Fund.
Basically Mohan’s are going to donate suit jackets and suits that customers bring in. They will clean them up and give them to the Doe Fund. We see a lot of charities that supply the homeless with shelter and food. I think the Doe Fund really does a great job. What they do is actually get those in need in the workforce. They find them jobs, get them educated, and get them back on their feet so their long term success is greater than the short term.
Those people can’t afford suits or jackets. For Mohan’s to provide jackets and reach out to this charity and work with them is bar none an outstanding idea in the long term for these people in need.
AE: How can people help you guys out?
AB: They can go to Mohan Tailors dot com. They can reach out to Mohan’s if they have a suit or anything they have that they are no longer using. They can go to Mohan’s and receive a $100 discount towards the purchase of a new suit, custom suit, or overcoat. Basically the goal is to get these coats and overcoats to those people in need.
Hopefully we will be able to get over a thousand of these jackets back to the people in need. I just think it is a great idea. Just reach out to Mohan’s. Go to their website. You can call them at 212-697-0050 to get more information.
AE: Moving to sports, you played for 12 years in the NFL as a tight end for the Jets, Bucs, Rams, Cardinals, and Chiefs. Looking back at your career what do you take away the most from your days in the league?
AB: One thing Art is that it goes fast. You don’t realize how the years pile up. All of a sudden bam it kind of hits you and your career is over. I have been very fortunate. The average in the NFL is three and a half years. I definitely surpassed that playing 12 seasons.
I got to play in New York, one of the greatest cities in the world. I came down to Tampa, where I live now, and I got to go to a few places at the end of my career. I really got to see the country and see the fans, and play with different coaches and teammates.
The fact that I got to play such a long time and the longevity to stay somewhat healthy throughout my career and not miss many games was great. Being that blue collar type of tight end playing in the NFL opened up many opportunities when I was playing and now with my post football career in the media world.
AE: You played for a few different quarterbacks in your career. How long did it take you to build a chemistry with a quarterback when you started playing for a new team?
AB: As a tight end that was the first thing I did. When I came to New York I had Chad Pennington and Vinnie Testaverde sitting right next to me at my locker. Immediately you try to build those bonds. That is important. I think any wide receiver, tight end, running back in this league the first person you are trying to make friends with is the quarterback.
Anything you can do to build that extra work or continuity and getting on the same page is huge. As I grew into my career and went to different teams I was kind of a guy that got gravitated to as a leader. I would be with those quarterbacks from just an experience standpoint.
For any young guy coming into the league build a relationship with the quarterback, the coordinators, and just everybody to get on the same page and put that extra work in. It can really help you develop yourself as a better player and extend your career.
AE: Did you have a few guys on opposing teams that you enjoyed matching up against?
AB: Yeah, there had been some opponents obviously playing against different teams especially in the AFC East. You look at the Miami Dolphins. They were always a big rival. You are playing against Jason Taylor twice a year. He was one of the more phenomenal defensive players to play during my time.
You look at the Patriots. Guys like Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi, these guys were just hard-nosed defensive players that accentuated what the NFL was really all about. There were challenges for me. When I was a young guy with the Jets going against these high caliber players was tough early, but made me a better player as I went on in my career. It helped me extend my career and play a long time in the NFL.
AE: Switching to this year, who is your pick to win the Super Bowl?
AB: When I look at the NFC I really see teams that are in the bottom tier of the playoff situation are really trying to fight for their position. Originally I thought the Saints were going to be a team that could really make some noise moving forward. They had an outstanding season. We see them have their struggles with the Rams recently.
I think the big thing for me is the consistency. The Seattle Seahawks have been the most consistent team. When you look at the quarterback play in Russell Wilson everyone is picking them, but that is really the main factor. Every single week they have had the ability to go out and play hard, play good, and win each and every game. They could easily be undefeated.
On the AFC side you think that it will be the Denver Broncos, but you are starting to see some flaws with this team. They struggle on defense. I feel that no matter how many stats Peyton Manning puts up they need every single yard and every touchdown. That could be a problem moving forward.
Look at the Patriots and the Ravens. I think it is going to be one of those cold weather teams that if they can just get into the playoffs, they can make some noise. Look at the Ravens. They are a team that understands the situation. They can play hard-nosed defense. They have an experienced quarterback that can make some noise. Overall though if the Broncos get hot and they can do anything with their defense then they would be the favorite going in to the playoffs.
AE: Any team surprise you this year either in a positive or negative way?
AB: I think in a positive way the Carolina Panthers have done an outstanding job this year. You talk about the head coach, Ron Rivera. Everyone wanted to fire him last season, but all of a sudden they stuck with him. Cam Newton became a better player. They get a few defensive players like Luke Kuechly and other defensive linemen that come in and really help build that team.
Now they are really a complete football team. They can run the football. They can play defense. To me they have been the surprise. I thought that they would be better, but I didn’t think that they would be in the mix to potentially with the division.