Andy Olson knows that life and football games can change in a hurry.
Ten days ago, Olson was living in Bellingham with his wife and their two young children. Then Spokane Shock head coach Rob Keefe, who had fired offensive coordinator Fred Biletnikoff Jr. earlier that day, called with a job offer.
“My wife and I spent a few hours talking about our options,” said Olson, who left his job as a concrete laborer for a construction company. “It was an easy decision for me, because it’s something I love to do. It’s hard on our kids, because my daughter is in preschool. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Two days later, Olson drove across the state, arriving 20 minutes before last Tuesday’s practice. He poured himself into practice, videotape and game-planning for a couple of days and accompanied the team on the road trip to Iowa. Olson called most of the plays in Spokane’s 43-42 loss, though Keefe was on the field relaying the plays to quarterback Kyle Rowley.
“The reason we did it that way was because I knew it would be a hostile environment and I wanted him to get his feet under him,” Keefe said. “I’m a prideful person, but I’m definitely not stubborn. I have my hands full. Taking on the offense was really a one-week situation.
“He’s the offensive coordinator. I’m putting my spin on it and what I want to see, but I really believe in Andy.”
Olson had 220 receptions as a Shock receiver from 2008-09. Keefe tried to bring him back last season when injuries hit the receiver position with the idea of eventually transitioning into coaching.
The 28-year-old Olson faces a challenge similar to the one Keefe, now 30, took on when he was named head coach last year: coaching players who were once teammates.
“He just said to be myself,” Olson said of Keefe’s advice. “My personality is to have a lot of energy and be very positive. I think that’s why he gave me this chance, because he saw a lot of himself in me.”
Olson played receiver at Western Washington University, earning All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference first-team honors three times.
The Shock committed 13 penalties and five turnovers in the loss to Iowa. After scoring on its first four possessions, Spokane produced touchdowns on just two of its last eight. The Shock didn’t score in the last 13 minutes. Iowa, which had three turnovers, didn’t score in the final 14:15.
“Yes, I’m irritated and disappointed at the lack of mental focus,” Keefe said. “It’s definitely unacceptable to have poorly thrown balls, fumbled snaps, to line up inappropriately, but I believe we’re going through this for a reason and I believe it’s going to stop this week.
“Nobody has beaten us, we’ve beaten ourselves. The good thing is it’s all correctable.”
Spokane took its lumps on the field against Iowa and in the training room. Linebacker Antwan Marsh and receiver Emery Sammons suffered concussions on the same play as they sandwiched an Iowa kick returner. Receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku (turf toe) watched Tuesday’s practice but he expects to return soon. Defensive lineman Terrance Taylor (ankle) probably won’t play Friday.
“I don’t remember much about the game,” Marsh said. “I asked (fullback) Clay (Harrell) four or five times, ‘What happened?’ He finally said, ’Twan, you got hit in the head.’ ”
Marsh’s and Sammons’s status for Friday will be determined later this week.