Shane Olivea, offensive tackle on 2002 Ohio State title team, dies

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
Shane Olivea, shown here at Ohio State in 2016, received his degree 17 years after leaving school for the NFL.

Shane Olivea, the right tackle on Ohio State's 2002 national championship team, has died at age 40.

The cause of death is unknown.

Olivea overcame years of opioid addiction that began in his rookie season with the San Diego Chargers to earn his bachelor's degree in sports industry in December 2016 through OSU's degree-completion program for former players.

The Chargers mourned his death in a statement Thursday. He played four seasons with the team, starting 57 of 60 games played.

Olivea had been living in the Phoenix area in recent years.

"Just a great guy who worked his tail off to get his degree," said John Macko, assistant director for OSU's Student-Athlete Support Services, who oversees the program. "Just so young to die, and I'm so sorry for his family. It's such a shock. It's hard to put words to it. So sad."

His OSU teammates posted about his death on social media.

"Woke to the sobering news that @OhioStateFB lost a great one this morning," former linebacker Bobby Carpenter tweeted.

Olivea was a junior on Ohio State's 2002 championship team, which upset Miami to win the Bowl Championship Series title.

Shane Olivea at Ohio State

He was a seventh-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft, but quickly became a budding star. But he became addicted to painkillers after his long rookie season.

"There wasn't one day in the NFL I wasn't high on a pill after my rookie year," Olivea said a in Dispatch story five years ago about his graduation following his long addiction.

"At my height on Vicodin, I would take 125 a day," he said. "It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I'd throw it up."

He eventually entered rehab and enrolled at Ohio State to get his degree so that he could pursue a career in coaching.

"He stopped his life and moved to Columbus to finish his degree," Macko said. "It meant that much to him. I was just really proud of him."

He is the second Buckeye offensive lineman from the 2002 team to die recently. Guard Ivan Douglas died in October due to complications from COVID-19.

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.

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