Olivea played for Ohio State from 2000-2003 and helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002. The Chargers took Olivea in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and he proceeded to start all but seven of the team’s regular-season games over the next four years.
In 2006, Chargers legend LaDainian Tomlinson set an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns with Olivea starting every game at right tackle.
After Olivea’s fourth season in San Diego, however, he entered rehab to address an opioid addiction he developed during his rookie year. Olivea told the Columbus Dispatch he took 125 Vicodin pills a day at the height of his addiction, an amount large enough for his doctors to call him being alive a “walking miracle.”
“There wasn’t one day in the NFL I wasn’t high on a pill after my rookie year,” Olivea said.
The Chargers cut Olivea while he was in rehab, and he never played another NFL game. Olivea eventually played for two teams in the now defunct United States Football League, though.
But while Olviea couldn’t recapture his NFL career, he found sobriety. Olivea stayed clean for several years after his 89-day stint at the Betty Ford Center in California, and in 2015 he re-enrolled at Ohio State to finish his degree.
In 2016, after eight years sober, the then 35-year-old Olivea graduated with a degree in sports industry.
“I looked at it like three times,” Olivea said of his Ohio State diploma. “I never thought I’d ever see a college diploma with my name on it.”