FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In late May, the Patriots’ signing of Gunner Olszewski generated headlines for a few reasons.
Olszewski was a new name, even to the most hardcore football fans. He played at what sounded like a made-up college (Bemidji State), and, at 6-foot, 170 pounds, was attempting to make the radical transition from Division II cornerback to NFL wide receiver.
The story was cool, but expectations were minimal.
Three months later, Olszewski has done the improbable. He’s on Patriots’ 53-man roster, a source confirmed.
Naturally, one of the great underdog stories in recent Patriots history was made even more dramatic with a last-minute reversal by Bill Belichick.
Around noon on Saturday, Olszewski was informed that he’d be released by the Patriots, according to a source. The intention was to sneak Olszewski on to the practice squad, but the Pats must have realized that they were taking a major risk in exposing him to waivers.
Olszewski, who caught five passes for 69 yards in the preseason and flashed plenty of punt return ability, was a candidate to be claimed by another team.
So, minutes before they needed to submit their initial 53-man roster, the Pats decided to create a spot for Olszewski by shipping cornerback Keion Crossen to Houston.
The move blindsided Crossen, who earlier in the day believed he was a 100 percent lock to make the New England roster.
A second-year pro out of Western Carolina, Crossen was one of the team’s most dynamic athletes. Like Olszewski, he offered considerable upside at his position (cornerback) and was already a high-level special teams contributor.
In the end, though, the Pats opted to take the gamble on Olszewski rather than Crossen.
While he remains a developmental prospect at wide receiver, Olszewski could open the season as the team’s top punt returner.