In his 11th season at Augustana, a head coach’s dedication to faith, family and football has led him to a milestone of an achievement: his 100th career win.
With the continuation of their undefeated season, the celebration of the “Key to the City” against the University of Sioux Falls marked head football coach Jerry Olszewski’s 100th career win.
“I wasn’t even aware of it until like two weeks before,” Olszewski said. “I don’t ever track my own personal wins. It’s always season by season.”
Originally from Menasha, Wisconsin, Olszewski has coached football for 30 years, spending five years as head coach at St. Olaf College in Minnesota before joining Augustana in 2012.
Throughout his time at Augustana, Olszewski has accomplished a number of achievements, including the team’s first conference championship in 62 years in 2021 and the recent “Key to the City” win.
“Every team is different and every opportunity is different, but to get 100 is kind of surprising to me,” Olszewski said. “I just go to work everyday and be the best I can for the kids, and when that number was shared with me, I was like, ‘I guess I have been doing this a while.’”
It isn’t just Olszewski’s coaching that has set him apart, but his genuine care and concern for his players truly defines him.
“It is always about our players. Every year it’s about the players. Seeing the smiles on their faces is the greatest joy that I have,” Olszewski said. “I see true joy come out of their faces and they work so hard to be who they are. Getting to hold onto that key for a year and see our name in history — for that, I am thankful and grateful. I love them and I am happy for them.”
Senior defensive back JayVian Farr said Olszewski’s 100th win was a day to remember.
“It was great to see him be able to take pictures with many different people. He was able to be surrounded with tons of friends, family and alumni to celebrate,” Farr said. “A day most definitely filled with emotions.”
Before he joined the football program, the team’s average GPA was 2.4, Olszewski said. Now, the players hold an average of 3.4.
“They are going to school to get a degree to do what they want to do for the rest of their life, and football is just a part of that journey. It is not the journey,” Olszewski said. “You do your best, not someone else’s best — your best. I just honed it in even tighter to send these guys out into the world as prepared men to be successful in every part of their life.”
Olszewski’s coaching journey is a testament to his enduring passion for football and his impact on the lives of countless students.
“I think so highly of him. I chose him to walk me down for homecoming at the coronation,” Farr said. “One thing that always sticks out for me from coach OJ is him always telling me that I am a light in a dark room.”
Farr said he nearly transferred to another school during his sophomore year before he talked with Olszewski.
“Coach spoke life into me. I just was really thankful for him at that moment because I realized that he had my best interest at heart,” Farr said.
Olszewski is strong on many principles, which has guided him throughout his career.
“Hard work, that is one thing that my dad instilled in us,” Olszewski said. “If you want something bad enough, work for it and be proud of it regardless of the outcome.”
His commitment to hard work has not only shaped his coaching style but also his approach to life.
“There’s two ways to do things: do it right or do it again, and I think I live by that motto. I don’t want to get outworked by anybody,” Olszewski said.
However, Olszewski’s philosophies reach beyond individual effort. He also embraces the importance of faith and teamwork.
“My second thing is humility. It’s not about me. It’s always been about us,” Olszewski said. “Be a servant leader to others, and then you have greater joy in the experience when it is something you do together.”
His sayings resonate with his players, who see him as much more than just their coach. To members of the Vikings football team, Olszewski is a mentor and a leader who values their lifelong journey.
“Coach is very bold in terms of his walk of faith,” Farr said. “With him being so faith-filled and faithful, he always preaches faith, family and football. I think with those three things being pillars in the programs he has been in, especially here at Augie, it has established a strong foundation and that foundation’s success is only going to follow.”
After playing under Olszewski for five years, senior offensive lineman Trevor Burkhart said Olszewski has become family to him.
“Coach OJ is family to me, and my time playing at Augie has been life changing, not just through football but the things he’s taught me about myself and what it means to be a man of faith,” Burkhart said. “Any of us know we can go to him with anything at all, and he’s always coming from a place of love.”
Olszewski has left a permanent mark on the lives of his players and the Augustana community. His dedication to hard work, humility, faith and the pursuit of excellence has created a legacy that extends far beyond the football field.
As Augustana celebrates his remarkable milestone, it is clear that, for Olszewski, the journey is about much more than the wins. It is about shaping those around him to succeed in every part of their lives, now and well into the future.