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Greg Olsen-Kevin Burkhardt connection started long before NFL broadcast pairing

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 2/6/2023 Andrew Marchand

PHOENIX — The reason that new Fox Sports Super Bowl 2023 game-callers Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen may sound like they have known each other forever is because they pretty much have.

The DNA of Super Sunday’s broadcast is all Jersey because of deep connections that tie Olsen’s dad, a state Hall of Fame high school coach, Burkhardt and the entire Olsen family together.

Chris Olsen Sr., Greg’s dad, wasn’t only the biggest influence on his son’s football career, he impacted Burkhardt’s.

“It’s absurd,” Burkhardt, 48, said of the links that are now extending into the Super Bowl, where the pair, in just their second year on Fox together, will call the most-watched TV event of the year.

In 2002, with his father, coach Olsen, ruling the Wayne Hills High School football sidelines, Greg would become New Jersey’s Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year and was one of the top recruits in the country. 

Meanwhile, Burkhardt was starting out on his sportscasting journey. Burkhardt, who grew up a half hour away in Bloomfield, treated WGHT 1500 AM as if it were the WFAN of local high school sports.

Coach Olsen, who had a huge presence, took a liking to Burkhardt, trusting him and inviting him over to the high school on some Monday afternoons for film sessions. 

“Kevin always says it was his first experience with a production meeting,” Greg, 37, said. 

© Provided by New York Post Greg Olsen and Chris Olsen after a high school game.Chris Olsen

Burkhardt would call some of Greg’s high school games, did interviews with him and many years later was the play-by-player in 2015 when Olsen knocked it out of the park in his Fox Sports audition. 

Now, on Sunday, they will have 100 million people hanging on their every word.

Picture Perfect

Chris Sr. led Wayne Hills to the state championship game 15 out of 17 years. They lost the first seven title games, which, according to coach Olsen, prompted some of the local papers to call them “Buffalo” Hills, in reference to the Bills losing four Super Bowls in a row in the early 1990s. They finally won one with Greg starring as a tight end and defensive end.

Coach Olsen would go on to win nine state titles in his career (one at Bergenfield), including five straight at Wayne Hills, and had a 55-game winning streak during his more than three decades on the sideline. He’s in the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Hall of Fame. 

© Provided by New York Post Greg Olsen featured on a magazine cover when in high school.Chris Olsen

His motto that he drilled into every player he coached, including Greg, was that it will not be easy, but it will be worth it. It seems like a good one these days with the just-retired Tom Brady contracted to take Olsen’s job when he wants it.

Olsen grew up in a football family. Greg’s mom, Sue, was a PE teacher at Wayne Hills. Greg’s two brothers, Christian and Kevin, both played top Division I football. Christian began at Notre Dame, like Greg briefly did, and finished at Virginia, while Kevin ended up at UNC Charlotte after first going to Miami. Greg became a star at Miami.

One of the pictures accompanying this story is from the 2001 season when Greg, a junior, was a TE/DE combo and Christian was the starting quarterback.  

With players from both Wayne Hills and its cross-town rivals, Wayne Valley, in attendance, the photo shows coach Olsen being interviewed by Burkhardt and now Bergen Record Giants beat writer, Art Stapleton. It was more than just a one-time meeting.

© Provided by New York Post Kevin Burkhardt (middle) and Art Stapleton (left) interview Chris Olsen.Chris Olsen

Burkhardt would pick coach Olsen’s brain, asking for five minutes here and 15 minutes there so he could be as knowledgeable as possible. 

“He was very likable,” said coach Olsen, who has been retired for a decade.

On the WGHT broadcasts, Burkhardt caught Greg’s mother’s attention when she found out Burkhardt, like her, graduated from William Paterson University. 

“That sparked my interest right away,” Sue said. “I remember in those days we didn’t have cell phones so we would get in the car and we would put on WGHT. It would give us all the scores that we were dying to know who won. It would give us an update on Wayne Hills. It was a big deal turning into that radio station on the way home.”

Burkhardt called some of Greg’s playoff games and interviewed him for WGHT shows. It was just before the digital age so the two have rummaged through their homes trying to find an old picture, but have been unsuccessful so far.

‘It won’t be easy’

After high school, Greg went about his football career, becoming a first-round pick of the Bears, while Kevin bounced around, selling cars at one point as he became frustrated in the business. 

Burkhardt eventually landed at SNY, where he became a folk hero as the sideline reporter with Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez in the booth. He would end up at Fox Sports, becoming an NFL play-by-player, but with Joe Buck at the top of the food chain there wasn’t really much hope to call a Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Olsen would have a tremendous career as a tight end. He would become interested in broadcasting and, just as importantly, networks became interested in him. 

In 2015, Fox would bring in Olsen for a game audition. Burkhardt would serve as the play-by-player for it.

© Provided by New York Post Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen during a 2021 gameFox Sports/YouTube

“‘Are you familiar with Kevin Burkhardt?’” Olsen recalled being asked by an executive. “I’m like, ‘Of course, I’m familiar with Kevin Burkhardt. I’ve known him for a long time.’”

When Burkhardt heard Olsen was coming in for a tryout, he got a big smile and said, “I was like, ‘Get the hell out of here.’”

Burkhardt said it was the best game audition he had ever heard. Two years later, on a bye week as an active player, Olsen would call a game with Burkhardt and analyst Charles Davis. He and Burkhardt called the XFL together to have more reps. 

Fox Sports would sign Olsen before he finished playing. Olsen was guaranteed the No. 2 spot when he put down his helmet. 

Last year, the duo had their first NFL season together, but, because of TV schedule quirks, they did not even get to call a playoff game, despite being Fox Sports’ No. 2 team.

In probably the craziest offseason in NFL broadcasting history, Buck and Troy Aikman left for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Fox Sports hired Brady on a “when you are done playing” NFL TV analyst contract that would make Brady the No. 1 analyst when he entered the booth and, as The Post reported, pay him $375 million over 10 years. 

© Provided by New York Post Greg Olsen featured on a magazine cover when in high school.Chris Olsen

Olsen will call the Super Bowl, knowing that Brady has a contract to take his job as Burkhardt’s partner. The two are focusing on Sunday, nothing else.

Olsen’s dad’s mantra that he said to every team he has ever coached is one Greg lives by and guides him. It would seem to come in handy with the Brady situation.

“There’s one thing that he would preach that has stuck — he would preach to every team, every class — that’s stuck with me and I’ve carried with me, the rest of my life. I can hear him saying to every ninth grader who entered his program, ‘No one’s telling you that it is going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it,” Greg said. “That has always resonated with me.”

When 6:30 p.m. rolls around on Sunday, the call of the game will be a Jersey story, with the understanding of the game having roots from a state championship-winning football coach’s mindset.


New York Post

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