May 14, 2018 10:37 PM
(ABC 6 News) – Two weeks ago, Fillmore Central and Winona State University football alum Zach Olstad got a shot at cracking the National Football League (NFL)—now, the dream is starting to become more of a reality.
The Buffalo Bills announced Monday morning they’ve signed Olstad to a contract.
“It was a good feeling,” Olstad said. “It’s a blessing, something I’ve been working for my whole life. To see that finally, the payoff is great, but there’s a lot of work left to do.”
“We’re very excited. What a dream come true for Zach,” Olstad’s former high school head football coach and Fillmore Central Activities Director, Chris Mensink, said. “The hard work he has put in, it’s been a dream of his for a long time. The school and community are very excited for Zach.”
Olstad, a former fullback at Winona State University and Fillmore Central high school, caught 34 passes for 218 yards and he scored two touchdowns in his collegiate career. Since he could “probably walk,” Olstad said he’s wanted to play in the NFL.
“From playing in the backyard with my brother, my mom and my whole family, I’ve always wanted to play since I was little,” Olstad said.
Olstad has overcome quite a bit in his football career, spending six years at Winona State—he missed the 2015 season with a torn labrum injury.
“What made him different was his work ethic,” Mensink said. “It’s something he never shied away from day one. No matter what you asked him to do, he was a true team player. It didn’t matter if he was carrying the ball or blocking, he didn’t need his name in the paper. He always did the best with whatever opportunity has been given to him.”
Olstad was the lone player of 30 who tried out for the Buffalo Bills in rookie minicamp to sign a contract with the Bills.
“If you want something, you go get it,” Olstad said. “I’ve always wanted to play in the NFL, and I’ve worked my butt off and stayed humble. When things are tough, you pray and keep working. You never give up.”
“I knew that he was going to put all of his efforts into achieving his goals,” Mensink said. “He would do whatever it took to get on the field (in high school). He was always in the weight room. You hope your kids can realize their dreams. When I knew Zach had that opportunity, I knew he’d make the most of it.”
The Bills are coming off of their first NFL playoff appearance since 1999. Under the direction of head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are building a team which revolves around defense and physicality—and Olstad said there isn’t a better place for him to begin his NFL career.
“They’re a blue-collar team,” Olstad said. “The fans here, the community, the ownership, the training staff, the head coach, everybody in the Buffalo Bills’ organization are blue-collared, hard-working people determined to bring a championship to Buffalo. I think I fight in that perfectly. That’s the way I grew up, that’s my roots.”
Olstad is on the same roster as NFL Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy—but Olstad said who he has looked up to the most since he was young was current Bills fullback Patrick DiMarco (DiMarco and Olstad are the lone fullbacks on the Bills' current roster).
“All-Pro fullback, he has one of the best deals in NFL fullback history, and he’s here in Buffalo,” Olstad said. “Him being able to mentor me and working alongside him in the running back room, it’s been great. He comes in the room with a goal in mind. Everything we do here, we’re trying to win a championship.”
“When (Buffalo) was looking at him, I figured he had a great opportunity,” Mensink said. “He definitely caught someone’s eye. He felt good about his performance, and at the end of the day, that’s what you hope for. You go out there, perform and give your best effort, and the chips are going to fall in your favor.”
Olstad has reached a level in the NFL which no former Fillmore Central Falcons football player has ever reached before—and that’s put the humble fullback on a pedestal in the Harmony, Preston, and Fountain communities.
“It means a ton,” Olstad said. “It’s a great, small and rural farming community. The people there are so kind. The outpouring of support from people which I’ve gotten has been insane. It’s such a blessing to come from a small town like Harmony, it’s great and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
“Hard work pays off. It gives all the kids (at Fillmore Central) the hope and understanding that if you put in all that effort, the opportunities may be there for you.”
Following OTA's, Olstad will participate in Bills team minicamp at the end of May through mid-June.
Updated: May 14, 2018 10:37 PM
Created: May 14, 2018 02:20 PM
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