Federal Way nose guard Uso Olive carries through on plans he made with his mother
Uso Olive, a 6-foot-1, 295-pound nose guard at Federal Way High School, will play at Portland State next season. Going to college is a goal his mother, Annamarie, had set for Uso before she died in February.
Seattle Times staff reporter
FEDERAL WAY — Annamarie Olive always had big plans for her only child.
And as Uso Olive grew bigger and bigger, those visions included a college football scholarship — as a means to a higher education, always her top priority.
When Uso signs his letter of intent with Portland State next February, Annamarie will be by his side — in spirit and in a prominent photograph. She died on Feb. 2 from complications following her fifth heart surgery in six years. She was 46.
Uso, just 16 at the time, didn't let his grief stand in the way of the path the two had carved out for him. He got up the next morning and attended classes at Federal Way High School because he knew it was what she would have wanted him to do.
"Education was No. 1 to her," Uso said. "I just want to fulfill my and her plans, because we had a lot of plans together.
"She promised me she was going to be at my signing day, so when my signing day comes up, I'm just going to have a big picture of her right next to me. There's something bigger out there for me, and I know she wants me to focus on that more, so I've just got to stay strong."
Strong. That word applies in more ways than one way to Uso Olive, who said he's never even known his father's name. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound nose guard can bench press 445 pounds and squat 605. Plus, he runs a 5-flat 40-yard dash, a combination that has him ranked as the No. 1 senior defensive lineman in the state, according to Scout.com.
"That's cookin' for a boy/man-child that size," Federal Way coach John Meagher said. "He can run."
Olive's highlight film includes plays where he chases running backs down from behind, from sideline to sideline.
"He's dynamite," said Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle, who will see Uso and the rest of the Eagles in this week's opening round of South Puget Sound League 4A South Division play. "He's quick, he's strong and he's got that low center of gravity. We're going to have our hands full with him."
Olive (pronounced O-LEE-vay) is one of several talented athletes who make the Eagles a favorite in the SPSL South and a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs after a disappointing 4-6 season in 2010.
Lurking behind Olive is middle linebacker Jordan Pulu, who has committed to Washington State, and together they make an imposing presence.
"I love having him in front of me," Pulu said. "He's so strong, he can take two or three linemen away from me and I'm free to make plays."
Olive, who lives with an older cousin and his family, arrived at Federal Way as a 330-pound freshman who wasn't yet even 5-10. He carried more fat than muscle, but quickly drew Meagher's attention.
"He was unblockable at the freshman level," Meagher said. "He was just a man among boys."
Despite his mother's emphasis on education. Olive's grades were sketchy his freshman year and he was academically ineligible the first four games as a sophomore. He made his varsity debut against Tahoma and earned defensive honors of the week with four solo tackles and a sack.
Olive started hitting the books more and the barbells less, and it showed his junior season. As he grew and focused more on conditioning, his strength suffered. Some games, he added to his highlight reel. Others, he got lost and pushed around. He was ignored in the all-league voting.
Meagher pointed him back to the weight room, and the hard work paid dividends.
"I'm back where I want to be," said Olive, who has made some preseason all-state teams and also starts on the offensive line.
He's on track to graduate and verbally accepted Portland State's scholarship offer over the summer. He only wished he could have shared the moment with his mom, who has always been his rock.
"My mom, she was my shield, my everything," said Olive, who wears her name tattooed on his left forearm. "That was a lady I could talk to whenever I was down. Seeing her go like that, that just broke my heart, but we've still got that strong relationship, because I know every day she's with me."
He was by her side when she passed away after a monthlong battle.
"She was a fighter," Olive said.
And she's the reason Uso Olive continues to win battles on and off the football field.
Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or email@example.com
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