Last Updated: Mon Apr 11, 2022 - 2:12AM
Armstrong's Cadin Olsen was one of the top quarterbacks in the WPIAL last fall and on Saturday he was recognized for his greatness on the field as he was named the 2022 recipient of the Willie Thrower Award.
The second annual award recognizes the best quarterback among WPIAL and City League schools. It is named after New Kensington's Willie Thrower who was the NFL's first African-American quarterback.
Olsen was one of five finalists for the award in a group that included Brad Birch of Gateway, Jared Brickner of Beaver Falls, Joey Daniels of Mount Lebanon and Devin Whitlock of Belle Vernon.
The 6-foot-4 junior ranked third in the WPIAL in passing last fall throwing for 2,501 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Riverhawks. He also ran for over 800 yards and 16 touchdowns. Olsen helped lead Armstrong to the post-season where it defeated Mountour 27-16 in the first round, securing the school's first ever playoff victory.
Olsen, along with the other nominees, were recognized and spoke at a special luncheon at the Quality Inn New Kensington on Saturday.
"When my journey first started five years ago, I would have never imagined I would be in the spot I am today," Olsen told a room of about 100 people which included Thrower's family members. "I never played youth football growing up and I had no experience with the sport other than tossing the football around in the backyard."
Olsen explained that he decided to play football in the seventh grade but didn't start to realize his potential until the pandemic hit prior his sophomore year in 2020.
"Everyone can say COVID caused massive problems and a lot of trouble which I completely agree with but it was also one of the best things that happened for me. Getting that free time allowed me to work my tail off that summer, throwing and working out just about every day. It was my time to shine."
Olsen beat out a senior to become the starter at quarterback that year and went on to lead the WPIAL in passing yards plus was named to the All-State team.
"He is a tremendous young man," coach Frank Fabian said of Olsen, who has aspirations of becoming a doctor. "He would come into the weight room on days he couldn't lift because he had a basketball game and would clear the bars off for the ninth graders. He made the homecoming court but declined so someone else could have the opportunity. It's my honor to introduce him today."
Among the other guests at the luncheon were former Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick J.T. Thomas, former Steelers cornerback Dwayne Woodruff, former Pitt tight end Darnell Dinkins and WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman.
Pine-Richland's Cole Spencer was last year's award winner.
Thrower played for Michigan State where he was a part of the Spartans 1952 national championship team. He was drafted by the Bears and broke the color barrier for NFL signal-callers on Oct. 18, 1953, at Wrigley Field against the 49ers. After leaving the Bears, he played several seasons in the Canadian Football League.
Thrower died on Feb. 20, 2002 in New Kensington at age 71.