He wasn’t the biggest. He wasn’t the strongest. He certainly wasn’t the fastest.
All Neal Olkewicz was was a rock-solid force in the middle for the Washington Redskins during their greatest years.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Olkewicz played college ball at Maryland. His 188 tackles made during his senior year of 1978 is, incredibly, still a Terps record.
Despite his stellar play, the 6’0”, 230-pound Olkewicz went undrafted. The Redskins remedied that by signing him as a free agent. He became a starter almost immediately. Two years later, Joe Gibbs became the Skins’ head coach, and the team would soon reach new heights.
Olkewicz started every game of the strike-shortened 1982 season, recovering three fumbles and logging three sacks in those nine games. His play helped Washington to win all four of its playoff games, including Super Bowl XVII, which was coincidentally played on Olkewicz’ 26th birthday.
The championship was the first in 40 years for the Redskins, but it was just the beginning of a run of success for Washington that lasted a decade. Olkewicz was part of most of that success.
“Olky” helped the Redskins back to the Super Bowl following the 1983 season, and continued his fine play during playoff years in 1984, 1986, and 1987 (the Redskins went 10-6 in 1985, but missed the postseason). The ‘87 season saw Washington make it back to the Super Bowl, where Olkewicz manned the middle for a defense that allowed just 10 points to a potent Broncos attack.
That second ring capped a string of good seasons for Olkewicz. He played two more years in Washington before retiring, being named the Redskins’ defensive MVP in 1988. His 11-year career included 150 games and 137 starts, all with the Redskins. He finished with six interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, and 12 sacks. He was remembered as an excellent run-stopper and tackler. For his efforts, he was named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins.
And, now, he takes his place among the greats, as the Redskins’ all-time #52.
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