Playing collegiate athletics is difficult.
Many players grow up facing adversity and overcome it to compete at the college level.
But perhaps no student athlete has endured what USC’s Jake Olson has weathered.
Olson is blind, but still fulfilled his dream of playing football for his boyhood team.
From Bleacher Report:
Jake Olson was born with a rare form of cancer of the retina, retinoblastoma, which destroys the ability to see. When he was 10 months old, it took the sight from his left eye. Then when he was 12 years old, he lost sight in his right eye.
But what happened along the road to blindness isn’t what you might expect. A strange realization came to Olson. There is vision in it, Olson will tell you. A clear, simple, honest vision.
“You have a choice with cancer,” Olson says. “You can let it change who you are, or you can go out and attack life.”
Long before he captured the world—yes, the world—this weekend on social media by becoming the sport’s first blind long snapper during USC’s victory over Western Michigan, and long before Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called to congratulate him and sobbed on the phone, and long before a crush of media attention came to make him the feel-good story of 2017, Jake Olson was doing things that make snapping a football in a college seem, well, routine.
Like becoming a scratch golfer.
Like traveling the country as a motivational speaker, delivering his first speech when he was 12, mere months after losing his sight.
Like setting up a business with his college roommate, Daniel Hennes, that received special dispensation from the NCAA and allowed Olson to make money as a motivational speaker and play college football.
The NCAA calls it the Double Life clause: If you were famous before your life as an NCAA athlete—and that life is not connected to the sport in which you participate—you can make money doing it.
How fitting. The Double Life clause for the student, the football player—the survivor—who is crushing life. Double time.
“I learned at an early age how to confront adversity and fight,” Olson says. “There are a lot of people around me that love me, and I could tell they were hurt seeing their son, their brother, their friend, fighting cancer. It would make it so much worse for them if I were depressed and let cancer beat me. I wanted to prove to them, and everyone in the world, that cancer isn’t going to stop me.”
It didn’t stop him from accepting that first motivational speaking gig when he was 12, telling his story to employees at a Wells Fargo in Thousand Oaks, California. Hell yes, he was nervous—as he has been each of the more than 500 times since.
But when you’re telling your story—when you’re explaining life and how you’ve seized control of it and haven’t let it dictate terms to you—it eventually becomes second nature. And bonus: It’s just as therapeutic for Jake as it is for those listening.
The more he speaks, the more demand there is. He’s delivered his message in more than 20 states, to everyone from professional sports teams to mega-churches, from global companies to small businesses.
Everyone wants a piece of Jake Olson.
So you really think snapping a football—something he has done since he began long-snapping while playing high school football in L.A.’s famed Trinity League—is going to shake the senses?
Long snapper Jake Olson made his debut for USC today. He's been blind since age 12. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/ppg0ARDX3M
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 3, 2017
It’s a remarkable story that would be unbelievable if seen in a Hollywood movie.
Congratulations to Jake Olson for achieving his dream, and making everyone else look like a slacker in the process.