Blake Oliaro: success story on and off the field
By Morgan Lewis
Coming off a stellar year, junior defensive end Blake Oliaro of the Torero football team has made a name for himself as one of the premier athletes in the Pioneer Football League. The one time AP All-American is was selected to the All-PFL team for the second season in a row. Oliaro’s talents do not end with his physical ability, however, as he holds a 3.6 GPA as a mechanical engineering major.
“It is difficult managing my time between football and class,” Oliaro said. “I really have to avoid distractions to get everything done but it has become a routine for me at this point.”
One of the most significant moments of Oliaro’s life happened not on the field or in the classroom but in the Student Life Pavilion as he was eating his lunch. In spring of 2010 while eating a meal with his teammates, Oliaro unexpectedly collapsed and laid unconscious for several minutes. After extensive tests, Oliaro was diagnosed with a neurocardiogenic syncope, a strange but not life-threatening heart condition caused by a steep drop in blood pressure. With the condition came doubts that he would ever play football again.
“A few of my teammates thought I was dead,” Oliaro said. “It is one of those moments when everything in life begins to come full circle.”
After sitting out the 2010 season, Oliaro packed on 40 pounds and made the switch from defensive back to defensive end. The change became an automatic fit. After earning a starting spot due to an early injury, Oliaro became every offensive tackle’s nightmare. In addition to his 15 sacks (ranking 4th in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision) he had 57 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked kick, ultimately earning him Pioneer Football League’s Defensive Player of the Year.
After another great season in 2012, Oliaro is looking to help lead his team to its third consecutive PFL title in 2013. But Oliaro’s football journey may not end there. The success of athletes at smaller colleges does not go unnoticed by National Football League evaluators. USD has been known to produce NFL caliber defensive players in the past, among those being defensive ends Mario Kurn (Oakland Raiders) and Eric Bahktiari (San Fransisco 49ers). Although he lacks the size of a prototypical NFL defensive end, Oliaro does have great speed and a high football IQ that could intrigue some pro scouts.
“That is not something I think about,” Oliaro said. “The only thing I am concerned with is winning another PFL title. Whatever comes after that does not interest me.”