Blind long snapper Jake Olson participated in the USC Trojans’ spring football game on Saturday.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jake Olson ran onto the Coliseum field in a Southern California uniform and completed two field goal snaps Saturday.
After the Trojans’ blind long snapper achieved another lifelong goal, he became even more determined to follow up this spring game performance by playing in a real game someday.
Olson got a standing ovation at the Coliseum before he participated in USC’s final workout of the spring. After he confidently put the ball into the holder’s hands, he got another ovation from the fans and congratulations from his fellow Trojans, who have been watching his work in practice since last season.
“When I first ran out there and the crowd cheered, I had to fight back tears,” Olson said. “It was real emotional. Just touched my heart that I was getting the opportunity to snap out there. I’ve been to many spring practices in my life, so to be part of one was a real cool feeling.”
Coach Clay Helton welcomed Olson onto the field during the special-teams portion of the controlled scrimmage that passes for a spring game.
“Just how special a kid that young man is,” Helton said. “Can you imagine to walk out there in front of these fans and to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to get the opportunity to snap in front of my Trojan family,’ and to hit two dead on the money, how special a kid is he? You can tell the love that this team has for him. I’m so glad that he was given that opportunity today.”
Like any long snapper worth his cleats, Olson is a perfectionist. He wasn’t happy with his first snap.
“I just felt like I was a little cautious,” Olson said. “It was a tad low, but it happens. I thought it went well.”
Olson lost his left eye to a rare form of retinal cancer when he was 10 months old, and he completely lost his sight in 2009 when he was 12 years old. He has been around USC’s program since coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, and he asked to watch the Trojans practice on the night before surgery on his right eye.
But Olson, who turned 19 years old last month, hasn't allowed his sight to interrupt his football plans.
He snapped for his high school team in Orange County, walking to the line with his hands on his teammates before taking care of his job. After enrolling at USC, he joined the Trojans in practice last season on a special scholarship, repeatedly delivering strong snaps in workouts.
Former USC coach Steve Sarkisian repeatedly said he hoped to get Olson into a real game under the right circumstances later in his career. Sarkisian was fired last October, but Helton shares his former boss' hope to reward Olson at some point in the next few years.
Olson plans to spend his summer working toward his degree and his remaining football goals.
“Just getting better, getting bigger and stronger,” Olson said about his off-season plans. “And then when we come into fall, just continuing to show the coaches that I’m more than capable of being a long snapper.”