Running back Zurlon Tipton and offensive lineman Jake Olson are not just rebuilding their bodies, they are rebuilding their dreams.
Measuring in at 6 feet 7 inches and weighing 301 pounds at Central Michigan’s pro day, Olson already has an NFL body.
But Olson is also carry something extra that he wish he didn’t.
A long list of injuries.
In 2008, Olson redshirted.
In 2012, Olson started the first two games of the season before sustaining an season ending injury.
In 2013, Olson was named to the preseason All-Mid American Conference team before injuring his wrist in the second game of the season.
He would miss the rest of the season.
“It was frustrating,” Olson said. “But also I just kept pushing and building a lot of character. A lot of people would of given up and stopped after the second or third surgery. I kept going after that and kept pushing, I’m still here today. I’m going to go for it.”
While taking the last few months to recover and heal from surgery, Olson believes the wrist is healing but he doesn’t think all his strength is back yet.
“It’s coming along great,” Olson said. “I got cleared by the doctors to exercise it a lot. It’s improving it’s just not where I want it to be. I didn’t just lose the strength in my hand, I lost the strength in my whole arm because it was in a cast and all the healing took time.”
Olson worked out for about 10 NFL scouts in front of a crowd of 100.
He took part in almost every drill except the bench press due to his wrist still not being 100 percent.
“I feel like I did better, I wish I could of improved more though,” Olson said. “Coming off an injury I had a lot to do, I had to get back in shape and get my strength back. I still didn’t bench today because I’m not all the way where I want to be at. I’m going to keep improving.”
On the broad jump, Olson jumped 8 feet, 11 inches just missing his personal goal of nine inches.
For Olson’s 40 yard dash time he ran a 5.28.
One NFL scout that wanted to remain anonymous said he was looking to see if Olson would hold back in the drills because of his previous injuries.
“You want to see that the movement has rebounded,” the NFL scout said. “You don’t want to see any long term lingering problems from the injuries he has had. It’s really that lateral movement ability, that stop, start. The field drills were good to see him move around, when a player is coming back from injury you want to see if they are still effected by it, are they holding back, something that would make the injury more relevant instead of having our doctors evaluate him and see if he is going to be able to come in.”
The fact that Olson has been injured so much has hurt his draft stock, but if there is a silver lining, it’s the fact that his character has shown in the recovering process.
“I think that’s a big part of it,” the NFL scout said. “Especially when you are able to come back and be the guy he was before. We take into account if they hold back but him coming back that speaks to his work ethic, diligence with the recovery process, following instructions and all those things that come into play. At the end of the day you take every piece of the puzzle including the background information from people at the school, coaches and see evaluate if that information is true.”
Olson has been at CMU for nearly seven years now, he is understandably ready to move on.
“Yeah I think there is a point where you are ready to move on,” Olson said. “I need to get out of Mount Pleasant, I love it here but I want to see what my future holds too. I will always come back here but I want to move forward.”
Tipton was suppose to be the star of the Chippewa offense this past season.
After a stellar junior season, Tipton was named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker award given to the nations best college running back.
Tipton’s 2013 senior season didn’t last a quarter.
Against Michigan in the season opener he broke his ankle which sidelined him for seven games.
After having surgery on the ankle, Tipton felt like his ankle held up during pro day for the scouts.
“Just getting out there and running,” Tipton said. “Where I trained at we didn’t have a full day of training and running. We had drills and stuff like that. I liked the way I felt during the drills. I liked how I got out of my breaks and cuts. My ankle felt good.
Tipton ran the 40 yard dash in 4.69 seconds.
His most impressive performance may have been catching the ball out of the back field.
“I would say it was a pretty good day,” Tipton said. “I came out and had some good times, I impressed some people. I was mostly trying to have fun with my boys for the last time. At the same time I wanted to show those guys what I could do.”
After completing his workouts for the NFL scouts, Tipton met with scouts in a film room where he stayed for roughly two hours breaking down film.
“They wanted to know how I did drawing up defenses,” Tipton said. “They wanted to know if I knew the defensive coverages and who I would be blocking. It was nothing I haven’t seen before. I’m sure I will adapt to wherever I go.”
Tipton decided not to apply for a medical redshirt this season after his injury.
He stands by his decision.
“Yes sir,” Tipton said. “I had already graduated school and to be honest it was kind of a done deal for me knowing that I wasn’t going to come back and finish my masters degree. I have my degree and graduated college. That’s the first goal when you come here to play. That goal is accomplished and I still stand behind my decision.”
If Tipton is to catch on with an NFL team he will have to learn how to play special teams.
The same NFL scout that evaluated Olson, also gave insight to Tipton.
“You always want versatility,” the NFL scout said. “Being able to pick up and adjust to a scheme and to show a special teams ability. The big thing for a lot of guys who are star players at their respected colleges didn’t have to play special teams in college. Well guess what, there are very few exceptions in the NFL. It’s not only a willingness but the meetings are just as intense as the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Those guys have to catch up on speed and pick it up.”
Tipton will miss CMU, but he knew when he came on campus that this day would come.
“I would say it flew by,” Tipton said. “Just yesterday it felt like I was coming into campus and learning everything. Now I’m leaving and it’s kind of hard but you knew this time would come. You don’t sign tenured deals in college, you have four years and have to be expecting that day. I had a great time here but you are always sad to see something go.”
Tipton and Olson both will be watching the NFL draft May 8 through the 10.
Whether they hear their names called is to be seen, but either way they are both hoping their performances at pro day will get them a call from a NFL team.