Gunner is fearless on the field


It's a word many say they are, but in reality, there are very few people who when they say they are fearless really mean it.

It doesn't take long to realize newly signed receiver and returner Gunner Olszewski is one of those people when he says he is fearless, he truly is.

And that is exactly how he plays football.

With a fearless attitude.

As a return specialist, it's almost a necessity, and it's how he approaches every play.

"I play with fearlessness, toughness," said Olszewski.

And where does that fearless approach come from, one that doesn't make him blink an eye when he sees defenders running at him full speed ahead, ready to level him, as he awaits the ball to come to him on a punt return.

"I'm from Alvin, Texas," he replied with a matter-of-fact attitude. "Being from Alvin, you have to be tough. You don't have a choice."

Alvin is a town of around 27,000 people, located about 25 miles from Houston, and home of Hall of Fame baseball player, and tough guy, Nolan Ryan, as well as Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and, of course, Olszewski.

"It's a small town outside of Houston," said Olszewski. "Everybody growing up knows who Nolan Ryan is and you want to be like Nolan Ryan. He is a tough guy. That's the guy that represents your hometown. You want to represent well, so I think that's where my toughness comes from."

The Steelers signed Olszewski to a two-year contract after he spent his first three seasons with the New England Patriots, originally joining them as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft out of Bemidji State, a Division II school that let him play both football and baseball.

"I played both my whole life and when high school was done, I only had two places I could go that would let me play football and baseball," said Olszewski. "Bemidji State was one of them and I took a visit there and that place just felt like home to me from the second I got there. That is how I ended up there."

While he was thinking baseball was going to be his ultimate path, following the footsteps of his father, Eric Olszewski who was a pitcher in the Atlanta Braves minor league system, an injury his junior year changed all of that.

"I broke my hand the first game my junior year season playing baseball," said Olszewski. "I was planning on getting drafted that year for baseball because the baseball draft is something like 40 rounds. I would have gotten picked somewhere in there. My plan was to leave school and go play baseball and go through the farm leagues like my dad and hopefully make it further than he did. When I broke my hand, I still got the chance to play my senior year football which I didn't think I was going to. After that season I started getting interest from football teams and I said whichever ones come first between football and baseball. My opportunity was football, so that's how football got picked for me."

It wasn't the easiest path, but that doesn't bother Olszewski. Instead, it's about where he is now.

"I don't think anybody's path to the NFL is easy," said Olszewski. "I don't care if you're a first-round pick or wherever you get picked at, or wherever you get picked up as a free agent. Nobody has an easy path here. It's hard work. That's what it takes. Everybody knows that. It's even harder work to stay in the league."

And staying in the league is his goal. When he became an unrestricted free agent, he didn't know what would happen. But this time around, instead of Olszewski having to send tapes to schools and NFL teams, calling around to get his opportunity, it was the Steelers who came calling.

"That was different," admitted Olszewski. "When I first was coming out of college it seemed like I was calling everybody and just trying to tell people who I am. And now people know my name. I feel lucky to play my second contract, and beyond that hopefully. I'm excited to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I'm excited to give the city everything I've got."