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Former football standout on UND's 2001 national championship team dies

Former UND offensive lineman Ben Olson, a starter on the program's 2001 NCAA Division II national championship team, died Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.

Olson, who was living in Greeley, Colo., was 37.

"Our football family is saddened by his passing at such a young age," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "He was a really good football player for us. He was steady and developed into a strong performer. His family is definitely in our thoughts and prayers."

Olson, a three-year starter, was named Associated Press Little All-America first team after his senior season, as well as the North Central Conference Lineman of the Year.

He played in two Division II national title games, with UND finishing runner-up in 2003.

After UND, Olson signed a free-agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks and played Arena League football for the Sioux Falls Storm, Billings Outlaws and Everett Hawks.

The Windom, Minn., native, who played at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, later coached at UND (2005-06), Minnesota State Moorhead and Jamestown College.

After leaving coaching to join his family business, Olson worked for Fortune Transportation, where he was CFO and became an owner in 2016, according to his obituary.

Schweigert was an assistant coach at UND in 1999 when Olson was a senior at Windom Area High School.

"My relationship with Ben started when I drove to Windom when he was a senior," Schweigert said. "He really reached out to us. He wanted to go to UND because we have a law school. As we started the evaluation, we saw he was a really good prospect. He was a big guy who could move his feet. He always stayed in contact with the program, even after he left the area. He was always very loyal to our program."

Schweigert said UND's offensive line was a key piece of UND's two national title game appearances.

"We were good up front," Schweigert said. "Sometimes those good offensive linemen got lost in the shuffle because our defense received a lot of the recognition. But we know controlling the ball helped our defense."

Olson is the second starter to die in the past three years from the 2001 national title team. Less than three years ago, linebacker and captain Travis O'Neel died in a motorcycle accident in Thailand.

A funeral service for Olson, who's survived by his wife Sue, will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in Windom.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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