Jake Olson's wait to join the USC football team, years in the making, finally ended Tuesday as the blind long snapper took the practice field for the Trojans.
A long-standing friendship with former USC coach Pete Carroll set the stage for Olson's dream to become reality. Olson, a freshman, had been waiting for clearance from the NCAA to join the team. Olson received the "Swim With Mike" scholarship, which is given to physically challenged athletes. According to the Orange County Register, the school first had to get clearance from the NCAA to ensure that Olson's scholarship would not count against the football program's limit of 85 scholarships. There were also medical clearances required, but Olson joined practice Tuesday wearing a No. 17 jersey.
"It was a surreal feeling being out there at practice," Olson said, per 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."
He lost his left eye to a rare type of cancer when he was 10 months old, and he has been blind since he was 12 years old, when he lost he lost his right eye despite undergoing procedures designed to save it. USC coach Steve Sarkisian said he hopes to eventually get Olson on the field for a game, but that for now, precautions are being taken in practice.
"Jake had a successful high school career as a snapper and will be a great addition to our team," Sarkisian said. "We will prevent contact during any practice drills in which he is involved to make sure he is protected. Someday, we hope to get Jake into a game."
Olson was a long snapper at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High for the last two years.