Oswego East Student Athlete of the Week:Tahj Oliver
Oct 04, 2016 10:52AM ● Published by Zac Sadek
Tahj Oliver-Pictured Right (5)
Although he is not the player that is mentioned the most in the newspapers (that would be RB Ivory Kelly-Martin), nor is he the most physically imposing (which would go to OL/DL Elijah James), his smile and personality makes it impossible for anyone not to be drawn to him, which is why he is this week’s Oswego East Student Athlete of the Week.
Tahj’s football journey is different than most of his teammates. He did not start to play organized football until the summer before his freshman year, which he spent at Mt. Carmel High School, in Chicago.
After spending his freshman year as a member of the Caravan, Tahj transferred to OEHS the summer before his sophomore year. As a coach on the sophomore football team at that time, I can attest it was immediately clear Tahj possessed the physical gifts to make an impact on this program.
However, it was more than Tahj’s physical gifts that fascinated the sophomore staff, it was the way he carried himself. He was an immediate leader by example, constantly hustling and making the most of whatever opportunities he was given at practice. His infectious smile and personality immediately won over his teammates, and his physical gifts and hard work saw him earn a call up to the varsity team after the first three weeks of the regular season.
Tahj’s mother, Tacinia Oliver, has watched her son mature into a respectable, hard-working young adult, and understands what kind of impact Tahj’s personality has on other people. “Tahj gets you encouraged, gets you on fire, regardless of the situation,” said Tacinia. She goes on to add, “He will smile through it all, which shows a lot about his manhood and integrity. He is an example to others of how to handle yourself,” says Tacinia.
True to his nature of hard work, during Tahj’s three seasons on the varsity football team, he has played at a number of different positions on the Wolves defense. He started his career as an outside linebacker, moved to the starting safety position opposite Kaelub Newman during his junior year, and this season he began at middle linebacker before moving to his more permanent position of defensive line.
Playing so many positions speaks as much to Tahj’s versatility as an athlete as it does to his hard work and willingness to do whatever it takes to see his team have success.
And success the Wolves have had. Tahj is part of a stingy defensive unit that is allowing less than 14 points a game. Versus Plainfield South three weeks ago, Tahj had maybe the best game of his career, as he was virtually unblockable at defensive end.
Defensive coordinator, Dan Dunbar, understands it is not just Tahj’s physical tools that are an asset to his team, but his gifts as a leader as well. “Tahj does the little things that set him apart-like staying after to clean the locker room, always encouraging teammates and pushing them to be better,” says Dunbar. Head coach Tyson LeBlanc echoes those sentiments by saying, “Tahj has consistently done whatever was needed by teammates and coaches to help us achieve our goals.”
No stranger to adversity, Tahj has seen his fair share of obstacles over the past two years, at times staying with teammates Tyler Allison and Stephon Harris for extended periods of time.
Through it all, football has helped Tahj mature and teach him discipline, and he’s hoping an opportunity will present itself to help him achieve his life goals. “I want to give my mom, brothers, and family a better life than what they’re living, and football is a big part of that,” says Tahj. He goes on to add, “It drives me every day.”
As much as Tahj is hoping football will help earn him money towards college, he has just as high aspirations for his future career. Tahj is hoping to use his big personality and bright smile to major in business marketing. His statistics teacher, Kay Knutson, believes he has a very good chance to be successful in whatever field of business he chooses. “Tahj has creative ideas, is an independent thinker, and is well spoken,” says Kay. She goes on to add, “He [Tahj] displays leadership qualities through his attitude, behavior, and work ethic.”
Tahj and the Wolves are well on their way to rewriting the football history books this season. They had their best start in school history (5-0), and are in the top 10 in the state in points scored. If the Wolves continue improving, they have an opportunity to finish with the best regular season
record in school history, and make a very deep run in the playoffs.
Tahj’s personal goals are simple, as he would like to, “leave a legacy at East, and being a leader in the school.” Someone who has seen his share of obstacles, Tahj offers advice to future Wolves on how to consistently keep their head up, even in the face of adversity.
“No matter what, always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. There are things that are going to happen whether you’re on the field or having a bad day, but don’t let your teammates know. Keep a smile on your face, and try to make other people smile.” If the Wolves continue trending upward, Tahj and his teammates will give the Wolves nation plenty of reasons to smile.