LAYTON, Utah -- He went from the end zone to the combat zone, but now Utah Army National Guard Captain Andrew Olson is back, and his team couldn't be happier.
The heartwarming reunion was caught on camera Wednesday, when Olson returned to Northridge High School. Students clamber over desks to hug the man who had been in the Middle East, serving his country.
“I knew they were going to be excited but I didn’t know the extent,” Olson said.
Captain Olson returned home March 1, but was expected to be in Afghanistan until October.
“It was an emotional day,” Olson said. “I care about those kids a lot and it was humbling to see that reciprocated.”
With tears in his eyes, Northridge High junior Colby Browning was the first to jump up and hug the coach.
“He walked in quick. It honestly took the breath away from me,” Browning said.
For about three years, Capt. Olson coached Northridge’s football and basketball teams. Student athletes admitted to feeling nervous when he announced his deployment.
“The minute he got the call he was going to be deployed, he was ready for it with his whole heart. He was ready to go serve our country and leave his family. He is the man,” Browning said.
“He wasn’t scared to go. That taught us that we can’t be scared,” Northridge High junior Trey Simms said.
Prior to deploying in October, Capt. Olson gave each player a replica of his dog tags. While in Afghanistan, he stayed in touch and offered support only coaches can give.
“We’ve been through a lot together and had some really good experiences, and I feel like the relationship just grew stronger each and every day,” Olson said.
“He’s the best dude. He’s someone I look up to and who I want to be when I’m older,” Northridge High junior Noah Udy said.
Capt. Olson’s early homecoming was credited with the plan to reduce troops in Afghanistan. He will be back to Northridge in a couple weeks to continue coaching and teaching history.
Until then, he plans to spend his time with his wife, Tina, and two young sons.