Jake Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the retina, and lost his left eye at the age of 10 months. He underwent a number of procedures to try to save his right eye, but it was eventually removed when he was 12 years old.
According to an article on latimes.com, Olsen continued to compete in football and golf at Orange Lutheran High School, achieving a 4.3 grade point average. He was awarded a “Swim With Mike” scholarship to the University of Southern California, given by the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Olson joined the USC football team for practice. Olson, wearing number 17, is a long-snapper for the team. At practice he wore a yellow jersey, which alerts other players not to make contact.
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian said, “He did a good job. I’m proud of the work that he put in.”
That sentiment was echoed by quarterback Cody Kessler, adding, “It’s awesome; it’s really cool. This team is so welcoming to him and it’s great to have him in the locker room… He never makes excuses, he never complains about anything. He’s out here working his butt off.”
Olson was not made available to the media, but said through a statement posted on the school’s website, “I can’t thank enough everyone who helped make this possible, all the coaches, staff and players at USC, the compliance and medical staffs here, the Swim With Mike program and the NCAA. I’m excited to help this team in any way I can and be a great teammate. I love this team and I always have, and now it feels great to be a part of it. Fight On!”
Teammates say Olson doesn’t want to be treated any differently than any other player, adding he thinks he is good enough to compete and asks why should they go easy on him.
Olson was on the sidelines and in the locker room, along with his guide dog, Qubec, during USC’s victories over Arkansas State and Idaho, but did not dress in uniform. He has not yet been cleared for live contact