After weeks of trying to unseat Drew Olson as UCLA’s starting quarterback, Ben Olson made a major concession after a recent practice when he said Drew Olson was the better of the two. At golf, that is. “We go out on the course every once in a while, and yeah, Drew’s got me,” Ben said with a grin. The Olsons, who are unrelated, have a friendship that must rank among the most unusual in college football. Ben, a Thousand Oaks High product, and Drew remain trusted friends although each has stated his goal is to keep the other on the sideline this season. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “We joke around about it every day,” Drew Olson said without a drip of sarcasm. They became friends five years ago, during the summer before their junior year of high school, linked by a last name and the shared status of being two of the most sought-after quarterback prospects in the country. Their paths diverged after that, but they met up again this spring after Ben Olson transferred from BYU and coach Karl Dorrell declared the starting quarterback position open. Suddenly, the friendship became a competition, but the Olsons have remained close, their bond perhaps strengthened by the odd situation. “You can’t let things get between friends,” Ben Olson said. “Things are going to happen and people are going to talk and speculate that we don’t like each other, but that’s really not the case. “We both understand what’s at stake, but we’re not going to let that come between our friendship.” For now, Drew Olson, last year’s starter, has won out. He will start the Bruins’ season opener Saturday at San Diego State but knows he is only one subpar game away from hearing the whispers that Ben should be starting. So into the season will go golfing buddies competing for the same patch of grass on the football field as part of a friendship that, while admirable, seems a bit abnormal. “I’m a little surprised by it too, to be honest.” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “But when you’re in that situation, yeah, you’re competing, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a (jerk) to the other person. “The conversations they have are real and genuine. It’s not fake. You can tell they really are friends.” Despite their differences, the Olsons’ friendship has endured. Drew is something of a strong-willed extrovert who had to catch himself from dropping a mild expletive in a chat with a reporter, while Ben is an affable but mild-mannered young man who spent two years on a Mormon mission. The situation probably has been tougher on Drew, who started all 12 games for the Bruins last season after winning a 2003 competition with another friend, former roommate Matt Moore. Then Olson hurt his knee in the Las Vegas Bowl, just days after Ben Olson, the highest-rated quarterback in the 2002 high school class, announced he would transfer to UCLA. The Olsons had met in the summer of 2000 during a series of evaluation camps put on by colleges and became fast friends. “I’ve been through some stuff here, that’s for sure,” Drew Olson said. “It’s like I get out of one situation and into the next.” With Drew Olson sidelined during spring practice after undergoing surgery on his knee, he focused not only on his rehabilitation, but on helping Ben – the quarterback trying to take his job – become acclimated with the new system. “That’s the kind of people they are, and it’s pretty neat to see on your team,” offensive coordinator Tom Cable said. “Drew is a guy with some experience and you saw him helping Ben through some things, and that’s a great thing to see. Nobody wants to lose a job, but we’re all in this together.” In Drew’s estimation, the gesture was nothing special. It was a friend helping a friend and, more important, two quarterbacks working together to help a team that has won just 12 of its past 25 games. “To us, it’s just about going out there and having fun,” Drew Olson said. “We go out there and play as hard as we can, and we’ll never root against each other or anything like that. We’re enjoying each other’s presence and enjoying competing against each other; it’s fun. “That’s sports. We’ve both competed all of our lives against whoever. It’s just how it is.” If Ben seems even a little more laid back about the situation, it’s not just his personality at work. While this is Drew’s final season, Ben’s redshirt season at BYU and the two years spent on his mission mean he is a redshirt freshman with four years of eligibility remaining. Plus, Ben chose UCLA figuring he would start something of a controversy, so he knew what to prepare for, and he knew it wouldn’t be entirely negative. “(Drew) was a big positive of coming here,” Ben said. “I knew I’d be able to come in and learn from a guy who was going to help me out and wasn’t going to try to sabotage me or anything like that. Having that relationship with Drew, previous to this, was definitely something that I was looking forward to. “We recognized right away that only one guy could play, and we both just kind of said that we’re going to do whatever is best for the team. We’re both team players.” So into the season they go, two friends pulling on the same end of the rope even though they’re fighting to be the lead puller. “I don’t want him taking my job, that’s for sure,” Drew said, then added with a smile, “I’ll give him the three years after this year to go out there and do everything. I’ll show him the ropes for a year.” Could this be it? The first sign of a crack in the friendship? “I feel bad for what (Drew) has gone through, and I’m just glad that he is healthy and ready to go,” Ben said. “I wish him all the success. I’m pulling for him.” — Rich Hammond, (818) 713-3611 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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