Sunrise Mountain alum thriving in college academics and athletics

With 141 tackles and 17 tackles for loss at Sunrise Mountain, Hunter Olson will look to continue to use his tackling prowess at Central College. (Central College/Submitted)

Four years ago, former Sunrise Mountain defensive lineman and Peoria native Hunter Olson had been a three-year varsity player for the Mustangs.

His 141 tackles and 17 tackles for loss during his time at the school was enough to consider playing football at the next level. Through the recruiting process, one school quickly became clear as the frontrunner — Central College in Pella, Iowa.

“I even had met with him at school, and also came out and met with him and his mom down in Phoenix,” Central College football head coach Jeff McMartin said. “We had lunch together one day, and it was really a good way to move forward in our recruitment efforts.”

Olson accepted McMartin’s offer to join the Dutch and hasn’t looked back. He has continued to prove himself as a valuable member to Central’s football team, earning his fourth varsity letter, all the while majoring in engineering off the gridiron.

“It (feels) good, I’m hoping I can get a fifth for sure.” Olson said. “It’s really been good just being able to have experience from freshman to sophomore year, not starting but just being able to get in there and play real, important games. (That) really helped me get ready for when I was able to start the whole year.”

The 5A product made his way out to Central College to play in the Division III program, originally as a linebacker, but transitioned into the trenches. In his first two years, he focused on his development in a new position, but was met with the hurdles of playing a high contact sport.

Injury riddled his freshman and sophomore years, but McMartin knew that he was still a valuable member of his team.

“He’s very physical; he’s not afraid to do the dirty work,” McMartin said. “He’ll play whatever role that you need to play. If it’s taking on the biggest guy on the other team, even if he’s not, he’s not going to back down from the challenge.

“And so, you have a guy who is, A: extremely competitive, B: he doesn’t back down from challenges, and C: very physical. You have to really love that in a player.”

Battling through his injuries, Olson’s patience finally paid off, playing in 23 games and starting his last 10 in his most recent season.

“It’s fantastic,” Olson said. “Having a ton of injuries before, it kind of sits in the back of your mind, but once I get in the game I’m not going to worry about that anymore, just have to get the job done.”

Olson did just as he set out to do, compiling 27 tackles on the year with 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble, all of which were career bests. His perseverance has netted him a starter for the Dutch, and a key player all the while.

Olson’s story goes deeper than his injuries though, as his academic side is also something to marvel at.

“He’s accepted every challenge and academically,” McMartin said. “There are a lot of students that can be engineering majors and that’s where the story ends. There are very few people that can major in engineering, and then also play a college sport. And I think it goes to another extreme when you’re talking about college football.

“He’s taking the hard path; he definitely challenged himself, and he’s advancing. He’s going to graduate with a degree in engineering and is going to become an engineer. He’s going to have a chance to be a five-year football player for us here. That’s a really special thing for him and for our team. And it’s been great to see him continue to work through that process.”

Olson will continue to put in the work to be the best athlete, teammate and student and keep moving things forward in the right direction.

“Hunter has definitely come a long way over his time at Central and he’s very committed to being here,” McMartin said.