An inspiration to USC football players and fans for years, blind long snapper Jake Olson finally got to see the field in Week 1 against Western Michigan.
Nothing good comes from a story about a long snapper. And in a perfect world, never hearing the name of a long snapper is the goal in football.
But that’s not the case for USC. Not when that long snapper is Jake Olson, who has been blind since he was 12-years-old.
The walk-on junior defeated all odds Saturday at the Coliseum, snapping the final extra point in a 49-31 win over Western Michigan. He did it perfectly, allowing fellow walk-on Chase McGrath to kick the ball through the uprights.
“I loved being out there,” Olson said. “It was an awesome feeling and something that I’ll remember forever, getting to snap at USC as a football player.”
Olson first earned notoriety by being taken under the wing of Pete Carroll a decade ago, following a bout of retinoblastoma which claimed his left eye as an infant and right eye at age 12. He was such a part of the Trojans’ 2009 football team, he spent his final day with eyesight as an honorary member of the team.
In 2015, after picking up long snapping in high school, Olson earned his place on the team by walking on as a true freshman. Now, he’s one step closer to being a USC letterman.
“I just think there’s a beauty in it,” Olson said. “If you can’t see how God works things out, then I think you’re the blind one.
“I think to have a situation where a 12-year-old loses his sight and going to have to face the rest of his life without seeing is just ugly,” he continued. “And to fast forward eight years and have that same kid be able to snap on the football field that really got him through that time, is just really special and incredible.”
“If you can’t see how God works things out, then I think you’re the blind one.”—Jake Olson
While nothing will top the awe of the first snap, USC head coach Clay Helton confirmed he’ll try to get Olson on the field as often as possible this season.
But the snaps aren’t without a process, only adding to the their wonder.
Due to the obvious injury concerns of having a blind player on the field, the Trojans successfully coordinated with Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester to make it work. Helton praised the Broncos for their willingness to participate for the special, yet potentially treacherous moment.
“It’s an operation, from the holder making sure I’m lined up straight,” Olson said. “It’s a lot of trust. The whole game is about trust, but especially that play.”
Even with the plan to do it, the snap almost didn’t happen. Despite being huge favorites, USC struggled with Western Michigan and needed a 28-point fourth quarter to pull away from the defending MAC champions. Marvell Tell’s late 37-yard interception return for a touchdown paved the way.
“Thanks to Marvell for that pick-6,” Olson joked afterwards. “Sure enough, coach was like, ‘are you ready, let’s get this done.’ It was a beautiful moment.”
Now’s the time for an encore.