In a red sea of 54,075 fans at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, there was an island of blue.
And in that island of blue was an 89-year-old grandmother who almost couldn’t stand to watch as her grandson lined up to kick the 47-yard field goal that won the game for Kentucky at Louisville on Saturday.
“You know how you kind of look and then look away and then look back?” said Austin MacGinnis’ grandmother, Josephine Olsen. “That was me. I was very, very nervous.”
Olsen, who lives in Arbuckle, Calif., a small town outside of Sacramento, had never seen her grandson play football in person before. For the past few years, she had been caring for her ailing husband and wasn’t able to travel.
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Olsen, who is affectionately known as “Gramo,” had been on the edge of her seat back in California many times watching Austin kick field goals, including a 51-yard game-winner over Mississippi State this season.
But she’d never been able to experience a college football game in person.
“She picked a good one,” Austin laughed on Tuesday.
Olsen, who attended the game with a broken wrist she suffered earlier, wore a sling on her arm along with five layers of clothing to stay warm.
A former trombone player in an all-female band, she marveled at the sizes and sounds of the school bands.
“The music, the loud music,” she said she’ll remember of the game-day atmosphere. “We don’t get that on the television, but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
She was fascinated by the man in the red hat and jacket who came on the field to signal commercial breaks. “I just thought they kept playing when it went to commercial,” Olsen laughed.
You know how you kind of look and then look away and then look back? That was me. I was very, very nervous. ... I just really don’t understand how he can close his mind to everything around him.
Josephine Olsen, grandmother of UK place-kicker Austin MacGinnis
She was shocked by the thousands of fans that packed the stadium and seemed to yell exclusively at her grandson as he lined up for what would be the game-winning kick with 12 seconds left.
“I just really don’t understand how he can close his mind to everything around him,” Olsen said this week, now settled back into her California home with what she called a “Kentucky blue” cast on her wrist.
MacGinnis had to block out those voices, along with thoughts that his grandmother had traveled all the way across the country to watch him play Louisville.
“I didn’t think about anything but the kick,” he said. “Afterward, I thought about her and how cool it was that she was at her first game.”
But it was more than “cool” for both the junior kicker and his grandmother.
“It was super special,” said MacGinnis, who has made 15 of his 18 field-goal attempts and all but one of his 44 extra-point tries this season for Kentucky, which will learn its postseason bowl destination and opponent in the next few days.
“It just seemed like it was meant to be,” said Olsen, whose husband of 69 years passed away this year.
She needed that game and to see the joy on the Kentucky players’ faces, especially her grandson.
“It was one of those things, perfect timing,” she said. “I needed something like that at that particular time.”
For MacGinnis, it was a chance to make his Gramo smile.
“It’s just cool that I could bring some joy to her life,” he said. “She’s had a rough year and I hope it’s a memory she’ll never forget, coming to the game and stuff. It’s just a really cool event for us all to be able to remember and talk about and cherish together.”