“We saw him a little bit in rookie minicamp, but there’s still a long way to go. We’ll see him. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
In June 2019, that was what Bill Belichick had to say about the skillset of former Division II defensive back Gunner Olszewski, who tried out for the New England Patriots as an undrafted rookie the month prior before heading home to Alvin, Texas.
A callback followed. And in August 2020, his head coach has more to say.
“Gunner’s improved tremendously – again, both physically and from a football standpoint,” Belichick told reporters during his video conference call on Friday. “He’s a smart kid. He works extremely hard. He’s tough. He’s very, very competitive. He’s learned how to do a lot of different things for us, and he continues to work on things that will expand his opportunities. So, it’ll be interesting to watch him take advantage or try to take advantage of those opportunities, and watch him play and see how all that is coming together.”
Olszewski recorded 310 tackles to go with 13 interceptions in his Bemidji State career, and returned 69 punts for 923 yards and one touchdown. He was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a 6-foot, 170-pound senior on the way to the University of Minnesota pro day.
He is listed at 190 pounds now in his second training camp with the Patriots. And as a wide receiver.
Olszewski went from jersey No. 72 to No. 9 to No. 80 a summer ago, making New England’s 53-man roster by Labor Day weekend in the hours after the team traded cornerback Keion Crossen to the Houston Texans. The change of plans saw Olszewski go on to appear in eight games during his rookie regular season. He caught a pair of passes for 34 yards and returned 20 punts for 179 yards before being placed on injured reserve in November.
“His overall background, knowledge, understanding of being a professional athlete, training, some of his fundamental athletic skills – he’s refined those quite a bit,” added Belichick. “And he’s much, much, much further ahead from where he was last year.”