Carolina Panthers

Q&A: Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Ten questions about life away from football with Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen:

Q. Have you been a NASCAR fan?

A. Not so much until I came down here. Growing up in New Jersey and then (going to college) in Miami, it wasn’t a huge NASCAR world. Coming down to Charlotte you recognize it’s big down here.

Q. I ask obviously because you have combined with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to do something for charity.

A. Dale is obviously one of the, if not the, top name. Just the idea of us being 88 was a unique play. Our foundations got together as a group and discussed what we could do based on that. And we came up with the Weekends with the 88s experience.

Q. What was the response to that?

A. I think people really responded well to it. The winners of the contest came two weeks ago to the Seattle game and had a blast. They got tours at his facilities, they got tours down here. They went out to Martinsville on a helicopter ride and he ended up winning Martinsville. Then they came here and we hosted them. It was a really cool experience they got for that weekend.

Q. Are you paying attention more to NASCAR now? Obviously they’re racing while you’re playing a lot of times.

A. Yeah, I try to follow some of those guys I had a chance to meet. I got to go be a guest with the Hendrick group so obviously I’m a big supporter of their drivers through the Chase. Once you learn more about it, I think it’s more interesting than you’d expect.

Q. What’d you make of that fight after the race last week?

A. You know I saw the highlights of it. It seems like it’s pretty commonplace in NASCAR for whatever reason. It’s accepted.

Q. What do you think the reaction would be if that happened in the NFL?

A. I mean we would be … we’d be … it’d be the worst thing. I can only imagine.

Q. You and your family started the HEARTest Yard charity after your son, T.J., was diagnosed with a rare heart defect. Do you all have anything coming up on the docket?

A. Right now through the rest of this year not too much because of the season. Next year we’ll do our annual golf tournament, our country music concert again. We’re in works with the hospital on a few things. We’re going to try to add events as the year goes on and add opportunities for us to raise awareness.

Q. Would you say you were a very charitable person before or did this really emphasize it for you?

A. I would say to a degree, yeah. We’ve always had a foundation, so we always supported different causes that meant a lot to us. We’ve always been supporters of breast cancer – my mom is a breast cancer survivor. Since 2009 we’ve always done events in support of breast cancer. But obviously what we went through with our son took it to another level as far as our efforts and how much it meant to us.

Q. How’s T.J. doing?

A. He’s doing great. He’s really doing well.

Q. And how’s the mom (Olsen’s wife, Kara) doing?

A. She’s doing great. She’s enjoying having all her kids home.

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