The behind-the-scenes story of ‘hustle’s free’ with Patriots’ Gunner Olszewski

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In what has been a challenging 2020 for many, sometimes the struggle provides an unexpected “opportunity” for a moment that wouldn’t have otherwise taken place.

Here’s mine from Wednesday, mixing two of my favorite things: Being a dad and covering the Patriots for ESPN.

The Patriots’ media schedule that day usually fits nicely into being able to balance our family dynamic. After 12:35 p.m. practice, and then a TV taping at 2, I scoot back home to take our daughter to a 3:45 obligation. Then we have player interviews on video conference at 4:30 and 4:45, which is a nice window to work until picking her back up at 5:30.

But yesterday, player interviews were unexpectedly delayed by a full hour.

So as many of us have learned to do in 2020, it was time to adjust. Instead of doing the player interviews at home, they would be listened to on the move.

First Damiere Byrd en route to the 5:30 pickup … then Devin McCourty on the way to grab dinner for the family (special request Pad Thai) … and finally upon arrival at the restaurant, Gunner Olszewski.

The iPhone is secured in in the middle console, we’re pulled on the side of the road waiting for the line to thin outside the restaurant, and Olszewski begins his Q&A. My job as a reporter is to try to bring some flavor to the story of the day – Julian Edelman’s return to practice – but there’s also a possible different type of “opportunity” to seize.

With my daughter and her friend masked up in the second row of the minivan, they are listening intently to what Gunner has to say. So the dad instincts kicked in and an impromptu third question was added to the 24-year-old Olszewski: “Here’s something a little different, outside of football, but what type of advice would you give to an 11-year-old knowing what you know now?”

“Shoot, man. Have fun and work harder than everybody. And if it’s something you really love, it won’t be hard to work hard,” he answered. “That was a saying my old man used to tell me ever since I was a kid: ‘Hard work ain’t hard, and hustle’s free.’ That’s probably what I’d tell them.”

Hustle’s free.

What a great message.

And so I wanted to share it with you, in a moment that never would have happened in any other year.

This 2020 has been tough. But one of the things that keeps me going is trying to find the silver linings, and that was one of them.


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