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Jerry Richardson's act of kindness that changed Greg Olsen's life forever

Olsen's son TJ's middle name is Jerry. Olsen said he and his wife gave him that name to always carry a piece of Richardson's love for their family.
Credit: AP
Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen looks on during an NFL preseason football game between the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen paid tribute to founding owner Jerry Richardson Thursday, saying Richardson's love and generosity went far beyond that of your typical NFL team owner. 

Richardson, who founded the Panthers in the 1990s, died Wednesday. He was 86 years old. 

"When I think of Mr. Richardson, the first thing off the top of my head was it was the worst time in our lives," Olsen said. "I got a call from Mr. Richardson. I'd been here about six months and learned my son TJ was going to be born with a pretty serious condition." 

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TJ was born with a rare condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS. He required surgery shortly after birth. When Richardson learned of this, he immediately contacted Olsen about helping provide the best care possible for the then-unborn TJ. Richardson famously received a heart transplant just three years prior to this, and asked Olsen if he could accompany the family on a trip to discuss the upcoming procedure. 

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson hugs his tight end Greg Olsen (88) before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. The Panthers won 38-0. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

"He called me and told my wife and I to meet him at the airport and put us on his plane and took us up to Boston Children's Hospital to make sure we got the best care and the best team to look at him," Olsen said. "From there, he put us back on his plane and got him to Levine Children's Hospital." 

Olsen was particularly moved by Richardson's gesture. He'd recently joined the Panthers, and in his own words, admitted they weren't good. So it wasn't like he was the cornerstone, fan favorite he eventually became over the next decade. 

"I'd been here one season and we won six games," Olsen said. "But I was a player on his team who needed help and he was able to provide it."

TJ, whose middle name is Jerry, was given that name as a reminder to carry love with him, Olsen said. TJ received a heart transplant in 2021

"We got love from a man that was my employer, my boss. He was not a close personal friend at the time," Olsen said. "He went above and beyond to bring love and comfort to a family at its toughest time."

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