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Penn football beats Cornell 34-0 in the last game of their 2009 season, completing an undefeated Ivy run and claiming the Ivy League Championship. 8 Kyle Olson QB Credit: Michelle Bigony

Former Penn quarterback Kyle Olson studied so much film during his playing days that longtime offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin jokingly called him ‘Coach Olson.’

It’s no longer a joke.

This season, Olson — who led Penn to an Ivy League title last season in his final year of eligibility — is serving as a student assistant coach for the Quakers, a role that currently involves studying each week’s opponent, working with the quarterbacks during practice and running the scout team.

It’s a position he’s built for, given that he was such a cerebral player — a self-described “coach with pads.”

“He watched almost as much practice tape and opponent tape as we did as coaches,” said quarterbacks coach Larry Woods. “Some guys have the capacity to look at the game in a big picture and other guys only have a capacity to look at the game at his position. … He sees the game in total.”

But while Olson hit the playbooks often during his three years at Penn, it was a challenge for him to make up ground academically after transferring from Fullerton College in his native California. The senior was faced with the daunting task of taking six courses during the 2010 spring semester in order to graduate on time, and he also wanted to pitch for the baseball team.

Head football coach Al Bagnoli had another thought: take four classes, play baseball and then complete his requirements in the fall.

Now, not only is Olson getting his first taste of college coaching, he is also branching out from his economics major into acting and photography.

Although Woods says Olson has been a valuable resource thus far — he’s even started sitting in the press box on gamedays to chart the opponent’s offensive tendencies — the coaches still view him as a player.

“Sometimes I look over my shoulder, and I think, ‘He’s hurt, he’ll be back next week,’” Woods said. “He hasn’t moved that high up on the food chain yet.”

The move could come soon, though, since Olson has already exceeded the typical role of a student assistant, a position which is a rare occurrence in itself.

“You wouldn’t do it with every young man who fell into his position and just wanted to hang around and finish up,” Woods said. “But he’s so bright and he understands the game so well that you almost want to utilize the resource a little bit more.”

“He’s always been a natural leader,” sophomore quarterback Andrew Holland added.

Kyle could be the latest in a line of football coaches in the Olson family. His uncle Mitch is the longtime head coach of Kyle’s alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma, Calif., and his brother Ryan was recently hired as head coach at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, where Kyle served as quarterbacks coach this summer.

“I’ve always thought I was a coach,” Olson said. “Even as a quarterback, you’re kind of coaching up all the players on your offense.”

Still, at this point he is searching for a job in financial services on the West Coast while also considering playing professional football in Europe. If the right opportunity comes around, however, he could become ‘Coach Olson’ for good.

And though Olson’s been Penn Athletics’ Swiss Army knife, and a permanent coaching gig might be the logical next step, Woods isn’t pushing him in either direction.

“We’re just going to enjoy him while we have him here,” Woods said.

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