One of the most heartwarming stories you’ll ever see continues to give, even after the first week of the 2017 college football season has been put to bed.
In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Jake Olson, a teenage fan at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old). It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.
Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015. He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game. While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, Saturday, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.
Watching from afar was Carroll, now the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Following practice Monday, Carroll spent a significant period of time discussing just what it meant for Olson to play in a college football game, saying in part that he “couldn’t stop crying” because of what he had witnessed.
From the team’s official website:
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 out there and play in a college football game, snap a ball, they 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. …“I would have imagined that Jake would have been dreaming about playing for the Trojans, but the fact that it could ever come true, I would have not have thought that was possible. But then again, it’s Jake, so anything’s possible
“I would have imagined that Jake would have been dreaming about playing for the Trojans, but the fact that it could ever come true, I would have not have thought that was possible. But then again, it’s Jake, so anything’s possible.
On his Instagram account over the weekend, Olson gave a heartfelt thank you to Carroll for taking him in and embracing him as a 12-year-old.
“To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you,” a portion of Olson’s post read. “If you hadn’t made me a member of the Trojan Family when I was 12, I don’t know where my life would be. You are a special person, and I will be forever thankful for your generosity.”
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to achieve a lifelong dream and snap in a game for the USC Trojans. I cannot possibly thank all the people who have played a role in making this happen, but there are some people who I feel deserve special shout-outs. Mom, Dad, and Emma, none of this would have been possible without you guys. You have always been there for me, and there is simply no way I would be where I am today without your love and support. I am beyond blessed to have such an amazing family. Coaches Helton and Baxter, thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to show what I can do. You push me every day on the field, and I am lucky to have you as coaches and mentors. To all my teammates, especially my special teams unit, thank you for being there for me and allowing me to feel so comfortable as a member of the team. To my friends, thank you for always supporting me and helping me get where I need to go. To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you. If you hadn’t made me a member of the Trojan Family when I was 12, I don’t know where my life would be. You are a special person, and I will be forever thankful for your generosity. Yesterday was a big day in my life, and I am hoping it’s the first of many, so stay tuned. Thank you everyone. It means the world to me knowing that I can and have inspired many through this experience. #fighton