Former football player Olison spent life helping others
Rance “Sonny” William Olison used his athleticism to open doors that led to an advanced education and a lifetime of philanthropy.
“He had a lot of great one-liners I find myself repeating, like: ‘To be a gainer, you must be a giver,’” former NFL and University of Texas running back Priest Holmes said about his friend.
Olison called himself a “suitcase” player because he played in four professional football leagues including the NFL.
He was a cornerback with the San Francisco 49ers in 1976. He also played for the Texarkana Phantoms in Arkansas from 1977-78, the Kansas City Chiefs in 1979, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1980, among others.
Olison also served as an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys and instructed many young people in sports throughout the years.
Wanting to empower others, Olison also become a history teacher and philanthropist.
On March 11, at age 65, Olison died of heart complications.
His football career started in the eighth grade, when he played for Booker T. Washington High School in his hometown of El Dorado, Arkansas.
His mother, Carrie Kendrix Buggs, was a single parent who worked as a maid for an attorney, said his wife, Mary “Mae” Olison.
She recalled him talking about his mother’s advice, “She used to always say: If you don’t want to do what I am doing, go to school.”
He graduated high school with a football scholarship to San Diego State University. In 1975, he received a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration.
Olison later earned another bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education administration.
Using what he learned in in life, he opened doors for others.
During his reign as president of the NFL Former Players Association San Antonio-Austin Chapter, the organization worked with the San Antonio-based Priest Holmes Foundation to provide scholarships for students to help them step into promising futures.
Olison often confessed to friends that he acquired his philanthropic spirit from his mother’s example.
Olison — with support from both organizations — held the first annual Mrs. Carrie Kendrix Buggs, Ham, Hen Give-a-way in 2011, giving away food to those in need.
Throughout his life, Olison also worked in the public school system, coaching and teaching students history, math and physical education.
“The kids called him Coach O,’” his wife said.
During his stint as a history teacher at Sam Houston High School, “his students had one of the highest TAKS scores in the history of the test,” she said.
Holmes recently visited Olison in the hospital, not knowing that these were his friend’s last hours.
Holmes said Olison used the visit to advocate for a student he’d heard about. “We have got to get him a scholarship, give him an opportunity,” he told Holmes.