Jake Olson just played in his first USC college football game, which is a great achievement by any measure, but it’s nothing compared to what he’s overcome.
Why? Because Olson has been completely blind since age 12.
The football player was born with a rare form of cancer in his retinas, and he lost the vision in his left eye when he was just 10 months old. Then, at age 12, after battling the cancer for years, he had to have his right eye removed. Even in the face of adversity, Olson remained positive and focused on his goals.
“You have a choice with cancer,” Olson told Bleacher Report. “You can let it change who you are, or you can go out and attack life.”
It’s fair to say attacking life has become his specialty. He proved it to the crowd at the USC vs. WMU game, too.
Prior to the game, the coaches set up an arrangement to allow Olson into the game without setting up a field-goal block. In return, when Western Michigan scored its first touchdown, USC didn’t rush the extra point.
“(USC Coach Helton) called me Thursday, and asked me if I’d be willing, and I said, ‘Yes, this is bigger than the game, and if we can be a part of it, I’d love to,'” WMU coach Tim Lester recalled during his weekly press conference at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, according to mLive. “It’s about what you stand for. I try to tell our guys all the time that my job is to build a team of great men, and you don’t have too many opportunities to show them something like this,” he said.
He continued, “This was an easy one to do the right thing.”
Once the arrangement was set, that was that. If the opportunity presented itself, Olson was going to play in the game.
Coach Lester didn’t let his players in on what was happening until the last minute, however.
“I didn’t tell my players about it at all,” Lester said. “I kind of wanted to tell them, but it’s my first game, and I don’t want them to ever think we don’t expect them to be in the game.”
So, just seconds before Olson took the field, the WMU players were told of the plan the coaches had arranged prior to the game.
Olson nailed the snap and gave USC an extra point, bring the score to 49-31 with the USC Trojans in the lead.
The WMU players didn’t seem to mind, either. They were just happy to have been a part of it.
Jake Olson got to lead the USC band when he was losing his sight as a kid. He led the band again today after playing for the Trojans. pic.twitter.com/XLekbBYB4e
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) September 3, 2017
“Being a part of something like that is special and touching to everyone who saw it,” player Justin Tranquill said. “Seeing someone who’s dealt with that adversity of having vision for the first 12 years of your life and then losing that, none of us know what that’s like.”
He went on to say, “I have the ultimate respect for him and coach Lester for allowing that to happen.”
Olson was extremely touched by the moment, also. He said in a press conference after the game, “Just to be out there knowing I had the support of my team, and obviously you saw just the support and love I got when I ran back out—it just is something so special. I think that, more than anything, really touches me.”
And if what Olson’s dad always says is true, teams are going to have a hard time opting out of the Olson on-field experience. According Bleacher Report Olson’s dad has been known to say, “If the Jake train is moving, you gotta get on.”
And after this inspiring performance, all we can say is, “All aboard!”