TCU fans likely have a mental image of Jeff Olson as one of those burly, intimidating offensive linemen protecting the quarterback and opening holes for running backs. He's a grunt, an unsung hero who often gets overlooked while the players scoring touchdowns get the glory.
But if you follow Olson on Twitter, you quickly realize he's much more than a beefy body in the middle of the scrum at the line of scrimmage. For starters, he's funny, offering pop-culture critiques and observations that would fit nicely in David Letterman's monologue or on The Daily Show. Take this gem from July while Olson was watching the U.S. women's soccer team compete in the World Cup:
"The U.S.'s defense at the end of the half was softer than a velvet bag full of puppy ears. Let's pick it up, ladies."
Olson may be the funniest Frog on Twitter, but he's not alone among TCU football players using the social platform. Josh Boyce, Ed Wesley, Tank Carder and Johnny Fobbs all offer up insight, musings or just mundane observations about what's going on in their lives at any given moment.
Some are easier to follow than others. Many of Boyce's tweets seem to be in code, or referencing an inside joke that is only clear to a select few. Many of them retweet (resend) words of wisdom they find inspirational, such as this quote attributed to Todd Blackledge that Boyce retweeted from @Sports_Greats: "The Six W's: Work will win when wishing won't."
The pervasiveness of Twitter among athletes has become another issue for coaches in the 21st century. TCU is working on guidelines for its athletic department with regard to social media, including Twitter and sites such as Facebook. TCU coach Gary Patterson had to discipline running back Aundre Dean for tweeting video of a skirmish between teammates during a practice.
"If it's personal about them, as long as they don't harm themselves [it's OK]," Patterson told the Texas High School Coaches Association last month.
"If it approaches the team, or they talk about teammates or what they do, that's not their job. They don't have an opinion about it."
Dean, a broadcast major, was forced to take the video link down and took some ribbing from teammates, including one from Olson asking whether Dean needed to have his tweets proof-read each time before hitting send.
Dean didn't lose his Twitter privileges, but Patterson banned him from interviewing other TCU athletes while working toward his major. It was a foolish mistake for Dean, who has proved to be one of the Frogs' more thoughtful Twitter users. Just yesterday, he tweeted this sage advice: "Simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some."
Carder, who has chided Wesley for changing his Twitter handle several times and has corrected a verb-noun agreement on a teammate's tweet in the past, says the service is a good way to reach out to fans, friends and family.
"There are some things that guys don't need to be posting, but for the most part I think Twitter is good, because you can reach all your fans and family with one message," Carder said. "But some guys have diarrhea of the mouth and want to tell everything they've got going on in their life."
Carder tweeted the following to Boyce on July 16 after Boyce simply tweeted: "Chillin."
"Bro...Twitter is to inform, not to tell people ur breathin."
Boyce, who has tweeted more than 7,000 times, says athletes have to be careful on the Internet.
"It can be [misused]; you just have to watch what you say," Boyce said last week at the Mountain West Media Days. "As an athlete, you're under a microscope. In the media, something can be blown out of proportion."
That's why Patterson tells his players to keep some things private.
"You don't air your family business outside, do you?" Patterson will ask his players, he told the high school coaches. "I don't want to stop kids from being who they are. But they have to understand they are part of something bigger when they are part of a team."
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