Olson to Serve Church Mission

Freshman quarterback Ben Olson has announced he will serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Ben Olson, rated as the nation's top high school quarterback in 2001, has announced he will serve a full-time, two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I couldn't fight it any longer," Olson told media on Monday. "We're all supposed to go. I've been talking to a lot of different guys on the team over the past few weeks, and I've been having the feeling that I should go. It's something I always knew I was going to do. It was definitely the toughest decision I've had to make in my life. But I know I'm making the right one."

Head coach Gary Crowton said he knew when Olson came into his office on Friday, the final decision had been made.

"Ben and I have had many discussions on this topic," Crowton said. "He told me he has always wanted to serve a mission. After thinking about it for some time, and praying about it, he decided now was the time to go. When he came into my office on Friday, I could tell he had made the decision to go. It was a very special, and very spiritual experience. We are excited for him and support his decision. He's a great young man and will be a great missionary."

Olson, who will turn 20 in February, said he has not started filling out the necessary paperwork at this point, but anticipates starting the process as soon as possible. Olson said he hopes to begin his missionary service in January, 2003.

Olson, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound left-hander, was the nation's top-ranked high school quarterback last season. Following his senior season at Thousand Oaks High School, he was rated as the top prospect at any position by SuperPrep magazine. Olson, a native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., earned both USA Today and Parade All-America honors after racking up 2,989 passing yards and over 30 touchdown completions as a senior. He finished his high school career with over 6,400 passing yards and 54 touchdown completions.

While there was much speculation that if he had played this season as a true freshman, he would have elected not to serve a mission. Olson said playing time had nothing to do with his final decision.

"Even if I would've played, I'd still be leaving," he said. "It just worked out that I wasn't supposed to play."

And for BYU fans who are wondering if Olson will be tempted to seek his collegiate football fortunes elsewhere following his mission: "I'm coming back to BYU," he said.