WESLACO — Ever since he first stepped onto the gridiron, Texas Tech sophomore Richard Olszak knew he would be a football lifer. But the Weslaco product never knew the amount of hurdles and obstacles he’d have to clear to reach his football dream.
Olszak, who was introduced to the game as a 4-year-old, started toting the pigskin as a flag football fiend and continued through middle school tackle ball and into high school using his athleticism to play a number of positions on offense, defense and special teams.
He quickly recognized he had a natural talent for the sport and made the game his passion.
“My mom put me in a flag football league. They had me at running back because I was running in circles and never really got tired. I just liked playing the game and I was really good at it and I just kinda knew that was what I wanted,” Olszak said. “It was just that feeling of like scoring your first touchdown, the adrenaline rush of it. There’s not really anything else that matters while you’re playing.”
Olszak was a fixture on both sides of the ball in middle school, but his blistering speed and agility made him a menace out of the backfield. He kickstarted his high school playing days at Weslaco East as a dynamic running back, but soon ran into the first hiccup of his career as a sophomore after his first taste or varsity football that changed the trajectory of his football life.
“I injured my shoulder and during that time off I talked about it with my mom, and we just felt like Weslaco High, since they were running out of the slot-T, would be a good option for me as a running back,” he said. “They didn’t really have many running backs plus we were getting more exposure playing teams like George Ranch.”
Olszak was a featured back for the Panthers as a junior, but a coaching change before his senior season threw another monkeywrench into his future football plans.
Michael Salinas, now the head football coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville, took the reins at Weslaco High and shook things up by switching from the runn-heavy slot-T to a pass-happy spread offensive scheme.
In order to maximize his athleticism, Olszak was flexed from behind center to the perimeter for his senior season where he patrolled passing lanes as a defensive back and wide receiver. But despite the adjustment and underwhelming amount of recruiting interest, it was a position change that later proved providential.
“I kind of just expected them to notice me in a sense,” Olszak said. “I really just had one friend who was playing there at Crown (College) and I just asked him about it and sent him my film. The coaches liked me a lot and they said I could definitely play there. That’s how I basically got that offer. I didn’t really know how to get recruited any other way.”
After receiving his opening into the college football world, Olszak packed his bags and headed nearly 1,500 miles north to Crown College in Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota.
He worked his tail as a member of the Storm, playing both wideout and defensive back at a high level in the junior college ranks. Olszak knew that Crown College was not his final destination and worked tirelessly on and off the field selling himself to recruiters.
“My childhood goal was to play at the Division I level and play on that big stage. Being at Crown I loved the team and stuff, but it wasn’t my dream and it wasn’t what I wanted as a person,” he said. “I definitely emailed the coaches a lot at Tech, signed all the recruiting forms and then attended one of the camps to kind of get my name on their radar with the one-on-one drills and 40 times and stuff as well as tagging them in my workout videos on Twitter.”
Olszak’s efforts paid off.
He earned an offer from Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells and his staff as part of their initial recruiting class in Lubbock, fulfilling a life-long dream of playing big-time college football under the bright lights of the Big 12.
Olszak, now an entrenched member of Tech’s ballhawking secondary, is helping turn the Red Raiders into a fearsome defensive unit and conference and national championship contenders.
“Bet on yourself. That’s the best advice I can give. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and it doesn’t matter how you came up, just bet on yourself and really believe in yourself because it’s possible,” he said. “Sometimes you won’t see it and sometimes it’s going to feel like it’s not possible, but it’s a long, long journey and you go through bumps in the road and there are big obstacles in the way of where you want to go. I had to go across the United States to get to where I wanted to be now and I really didn’t see myself coming this far, but bet on yourself, believe in yourself and keep giving it your all every day.”