If you have been watching College football as long as I have you will almost certainly recall the day that Espn’s College Gameday Live showed a feature about a little boy, aged 12 in Southern California who was about to lose his sight to cancer.
It was heart wrenching and tear jerking and when the feature finished the Director cut back to the live set where the crowd was silent and on set team were in tears. It was tragic.
That boy was Jake Olson and this week he graduated from the University of Southern California. Jake majored in Business Administration and was also a member of the USC Trojans football team as long snapper. A position he learned to play when he finally lost his sight in High School.
Jake Olson’s story is far from tragic. It is one of the most uplifting and inspirational stories I have ever come across.
But lets turn the clock back. When I first saw that ESPN feature, Jake was 12 and at High School. He had already lost one eye to retinoblastoma when he was 10 months old. He was football mad and his team were the USC Trojans.
In 2009 Jake and his family received the news no family ever wants to hear – that his second eye would need to be removed due to the cancer. Jake’s wish was that he got to see the Trojans in the flesh before that happen. In the month leading up to the procedure, Jake met with then Trojan’s Head Coach Pete Carroll and the Team. Such was Jake’s spirit and personality the team took to him straight away. Jake became a regular and was the adopted 54th man of the Trojan’s that season. He attended practices and games throughout the season. The day before Jake had his procedure, his last day with any sight, he spent the day, a hugely emotional one with Pete Carroll and the team. Their bond remains strong today.
Fast forward some years and Jake Olsen graduated from Orange Lutheran High School. He was college bound. When he was accepted to attend the University of Southern California his full circle was almost complete. Almost.
Having learned how to long snap at Orange Lutheran, Jake decided to walk on at USC. Yes, at USC, one of the largest football programmes in the country.
In 2015 Jake Olson completed his first snap as a footballer in College football. The game was shown live on air and at the time ex USC coach Pete Carroll said
“that was an incredible moment. I’m so glad that (USC) Coach (Clay) Helton figured out a way to create the opportunity for Jake to show what he could do. This is just an extraordinary young man. Jake has done stuff throughout his life. From the time he was 10 years old, he has been doing remarkable things—he wrote his first book at 10—and onward. For a guy to go out there and play in a college football game, snap a ball, then kick the extra point and make it, that’s just something, that’s just something about Jake. Jake’s a huge story. He’s one for all of us about courage and character and grit and vision and special qualities that few people would be able to hold onto.
He’s going to be a big factor. We’re all going to see him do a lot of stuff in this world. There’s nothing holding Jake back. I was so excited to see it, I couldn’t stop crying. It was thrilling. It was good to see a Trojan win too, but it was really something.”
On Thursday of last week Jake Olson graduated from USC. As did his guide dog Quebec. What the future holds for Jake Olsen? His future is bright, it is what he will make of it. This is a young man who personifies the Trojan’s motto – Fight On. We could all learn much from his positive attitude and perseverance.
If you haven’t watched the ESPN E:60 feature “Fight On”, I urge you to.
Photo credits : CNN.com, USCTrojans.com, NCAA.com, Marshall.USC.EDU