T.O. visits his high school

Published 11:58 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tyler Olson, the junior football player injured on Sept. 5 while making what Lake Mills head coach Bill Byrnes called “a routine tackle,” came back to his home Wednesday to visit friends and teachers.

Photographers and reporters poured into the small town of Lake Mills just 20 miles south of Albert Lea came to catch a glimpse of Olson, who has become a local celebrity. His nickname is T.O.

“Tyler has made such good progress,” said his mother, Medora, who went over earlier in the day with four of T.O.’s friends to be his entourage. Olson, who suffered a spinal cord injury, wheeled his way down the halls of Lake Mills High School.

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“I just stayed quiet while traveling to give the boys as much time as they needed to catch up and to spent time with Tyler,” Medora said

Olson said he didn’t want to make a big deal about his first trip home.

“I feel pretty good, and it is great to be back,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Olson and his posse to get all the way down one hall and then to the office where the administrative staff welcomed him back. After getting some help to take his jacket off, Olson, friends and others made their way to the cafeteria to meet students.

There Olson received hellos, welcome backs, a beautiful quilt, hugs and a lot of questions.

He was gracious and took time to answer questions and eventually he got what he was looking forward to — time with friends.

A room had been set aside for Olson and a handful of his friends to enjoy lunch together.

“I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I really like the smell of the school, and the Salisbury steak we had today was really good,” Olson said.

After lunch Olson talked about the progress he has made since the injury.

“I remember at first when I couldn’t move my arm and now I can,” he said. “This has been a long day so far, but it has been really worth it.”

Many questions were asked concerning the support that he felt from the community.

“It has been really great what everyone has done for me,” Olson said. “I don’t get as homesick as I used to because so many of my friends come over and see me.”

Olson said he plans on returning to school after Christmas.

“I am probably going to be coming back to school after Christmas,” he said. “I don’t want to rush it. I need to make sure that I am ready for it.”

Olson said that he feels that when it comes to his attitude, “I really don’t have a choice in this … I am going to get through this.”

Olson’s father, Craig Olson made the trip from Omaha, Neb. Wednesday to be a part of this memorable day.

“He is really staying focused through all of this…he has never said, ‘Why me?” Craig said. “He says often that this is only temporary.”

But probably one of the best things, his day back, even if it was just for a few hours, was said by a fellow junior classmate by the name of Taylor Westcott who said, “I have known Tyler since I moved here back in the sixth grade and he is an incredible person.”

Olson left the school doing the reverse of what he had done just a couple of quick hours earlier. Saying goodbye to the staff, getting help putting his jacket back on and the only thing that was the same was the fact that he had again a posse but for the ride back. It was four different friends, but it was his friends who he had come back to see, greet and ultimately reconnect with on this day.