SAN DIEGO – Some say the best things in life are free. Mission Hills High School grad Chris Olave took that message to heart as he made a great day for young football players at his alma mater this week.
Now a rookie wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, Olave returned home Thursday for his inaugural football camp, which was free to attend. Dozens of kids — each wearing Olave’s No. 12 on their backs — gathered on the Mission Hills football field to hear advice and run drills with the 22-year-old wideout.
Olave felt it important to give back to the community’s youth, even as he readies for his first NFL action.
“God is always number one,” Olave said. “I wouldn’t be here with him. I wouldn’t be able to be here to bless these kids with a free camp. That’s how I was raised by my parents.”
Olave played his first two prep seasons at Chula Vista’s Eastlake High School before transferring to Mission Hills. Because of California Interscholastic Federation transfer rules, he had to sit a year and then returned for a standout senior season with 93 catches for 1,764 yards and 26 touchdowns.
He went on to play four seasons for the Ohio State Buckeyes, where he set the school record with 35 receiving touchdowns, the fourth-most in Big Ten history. He was a first-team All-Big Ten player in three of his four years and voted a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association as a senior.
All of that and a strong showcase at the NFL Combine made him the No. 11 pick in this year’s NFL Draft to the Saints, where he’ll soon be catching passes from the big-armed quarterback Jameis Winston.
“Everybody’s journey is different,” he said. “I know my journey was a lot different from everybody else’s so just to be able to stick to the script and get better every day, I think that’s what the kids want.”
While reaching the pinnacle of his profession might be enough for most players, it isn’t for Olave. It’s why he came back to Mission Hills for his free camp, to show the players of tomorrow what is possible with hard work (and a 4.3 second 40-yard-dash time).
“For him to be here today, I know for him is a dream come true,” Mission Hills head football coach Chris Houser said. “But it’s a dream that I think is more real than a dream. It was earned.”
Olave will hit the field for the new campaign Aug. 13 on the road against the Houston Texans, the first of three preseason games before the team’s regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the Atlanta Falcons.