Coming into the NFL, WR/KR/PR Gunner Olszewski knew that he had the odds stacked againsthim.
A former UDFA out of D-II Bemidji State University in Minnesota, Olszewski starred as a defensive back as well as a return man on special teams, winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference as a senior in 2018.
Still, Olszewski lacked the size and athletic profile to be an enticing defensive back at the NFL level and ended up going undrafted, signing with the New England Patriots as a return man while converting to WR in hopes on making the regular season roster. He managed to do just that as the team’s primary punt returner and backup receiver, staying with the team through the 2021 season as he was elected as a First Team All-Pro returner in 2020.
Heading into 2022 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Olszewski knows that his way to the 53-man roster again rests on his ability to make an impact in the return game. Because of this, he has made sure to get close with ST Coordinator Danny Smith who he says has a distinct passion for the game of football.
“He knows everything about the game and he has a sweet personality to him,” Olszewski said on Danny Smith according to the team website via Teresa Varley. “He loves football. It oozes off of him. It’s fun working with a guy who loves what he does. He expects a lot out of his special teams unit and I am used to that and love it.”
Olszewski’s praise for Danny Smith isn’t anything new as the return man sung his praises shortly after signing with the team, calling Smith “his kind of guy”. Smith has been the Special Teams Coordinator for the Steelers since 2013, having spent time in the same role with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Commanders since 2001. Smith brings a wealth of experience to the position, having seen plenty of different techniques to execute the intricacies of the return units as well as kick and punt coverage.
Smith also has become a well-respected member of the Steelers’ organization thanks to the relationships he has developed with the players over the years, truly immersing himself as a member of the team on the field as well as in the weight room.
He will always be remembered by many as the man that smacks that stick of bubble gum better than anyone else, the energy Danny Smith’s brings as a coach on the sideline is infectious to the players he coaches, something that Olszewski has noticed in his short time with the team.
Some coaches and players are motivated by the financial aspect of the game, knowing that they can make a nice living if they do their jobs right. However, Olszewski has a different reason for playing the game of football. One that closely mirrors the mantra of his new special teams coach.
“It isn’t easy physically on your body or mentally on your head,” Olszewski said on playing the game of football. Everybody does it for their own reason. My reason is simple. I love playing football.”