Olson retirement at Ishpeming will end glorious era

Legendary high school football coach Jeff Olson announced this week he would be retiring after 27 seasons leading the Ishpeming Hematites.

It is not hyperbole to state Olson is one of the finest football coaches ever to tread the Upper Peninsula sidelines. His teams won state titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016 and when his Hematites made another postseason run this past football season, Olson again was chosen Small School Coach of the Year by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

In typical humble style, when asked what moment stood out for him in his illustrious career, Olson told Mining Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg: “It’s hard to say one is going to stand out more than the other because there were a lot of them,” he said. “But what I’ll cherish the most is being able to coach both of my sons and having both of my sons make it to Ford Field and be successful and really enjoying playing, not only for me, but playing for Ishpeming.

“That’s always going to be special in my heart, but there’s been so many great kids that I’ve coached. There’s been so many great groups of parents that I’ve been around. Those types of things are what make this job worthwhile and make it really hard to end it. Now we’re going to move on to a different chapter and see where that goes.”

No doubt Jeff Olson made an impact on hundreds and hundreds of players through the years, but we know for certain he also will be remembered for something else — reaching thousands of people with his involvement with “Do It For Daniel,” a documentary about stopping the stigma involved with mental health issues, based on the all-too short life of Olson’s son, Daniel, who committed suicide in 2012.

Coach Olson has visited numerous towns around the Midwest to share his family’s story and to bring the discussion of mental illness into the spotlight in an effort to help other families. His message has made a huge difference to others and for that, we offer our thanks.

We wish Coach Olson all the best in whatever he pursues in the future but we know this: it will seem strange come August when high school football season practice begins to not have him on the sidelines after all these glorious years.