Patriots

Patriots

Gunner Olszewski was just hanging out, watching some college football with Patriots punter Jake Bailey, when he got the call that changed his life. 

After hearing earlier in the day on Saturday that the Patriots would be releasing him, hoping they'd be able to land him on their practice squad, Olszewski was told that the Patriots would in fact be keeping him on their 53-man roster. 

The team knew it was a little unusual to have that happen with a player, which they told him, but a late-day trade that sent corner Keion Crossen to the Texans opened up a roster spot. That spot went to the undrafted do-it-all rookie Olszewski.

He'd survived cut-down day. 

"It was the best phone call of my life," Olszewski said Sunday. "It was awesome. It put a smile right on my face. I was just happy to know I had a job."

Olszewski finished his first day of practice as a member of the Week 1 roster Sunday afternoon and spoke to reporters soon thereafter. He smiled as he recalled how the previous day played out once he'd received the news that he'd be able to stick in New England. 

"I called my older brother. I called my old man," he said. "Called my momma. Called my little brother. In that order."

Olszewski's family in Alvin, Texas dreamt right along with him that this would happen eventually. His brothers knew that if any of them were going to make it, it'd be Gunner, and they tried to picture what it'd be like with him running around on NFL fields like a maniac by creating him and using him on their video games. 

 

"I was always the king of backyard football between all of us," Olszewski said. "I was always the best one. I'm six years older than my younger brother so that's not that impressive. They would make me as a player in Madden and play with me because it was kind of all of our dream for me to do something like this. Me and my brothers are super tight and I knew I had to call them right away."

Olszewski doesn't just have a roster spot at One Patriots Place now. He has No. 80 on his jersey, which carries plenty of significance for him. It's the number that Patriots assistant and team Hall of Famer Troy Brown wore so he made sure to ask Brown's permission before taking it. It's also the number Danny Amendola wore when he was with the Patriots from 2013 through 2017. And Olszewski now occupies the same locker Amendola did, just a few away from Tom Brady.

Olszewski has drawn some comparisons to Amendola due to his size -- he's listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds -- and his short-area quickness. Like Amendola, the Bemidji State corner was undrafted, and he's working out as a receiver and returner in New England. The two also hail from the Houston area. Alvin is just south of the city while Amendola grew up just north in The Woodlands.

When the Patriots practiced with the Lions earlier this summer, Olszewski made a point to seek out Amendola and thank him for writing "An Open Letter to the Undrafted" on the Players Tribune. Olszewski's father Eric sent him the piece to encourage him as he embarked on his NFL journey. That helped Olszewski put his foot on the gas in pursuit of his goal as opposed to hanging his head when, say, he was only invited by two NFL clubs for a tryout. 

Whatever it was that gave him a nudge, it worked. He still has a job. Next on his to-do list?

"I'm hoping," he said, "to keep that job."

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