61 days to USC football: Jake Olson made No. 61 iconic

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

One of the most iconic USC football football players ever wore No. 61: Jake Olson. His story and more as the countdown continues.

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The number 61 is so iconic in sports it was the name of a movie. 61* tells the story of Roger Maris’s historic home run record in 1961. But hold onto the asterisk. There might have to be another film on the way, for USC football’s own No. 61, Jake Olson.

Let’s get more into the number, as it’s 61 days until USC vs. Fresno State at the Coliseum.

Who wore it best?

There’s only one All-American who wore No. 61 at USC. It’s Bill Fisk Jr.. He carried on the legacy of his father, who played for USC in the 1930s and was an assistant coach under Jeff Cravath and Jess Hill, from 1949 through 1956.

Like his dad, Fisk Jr. was a member of a Trojan championship team, this one in 1962, though his standout season came a couple of years later. In 1964, he captained USC and was named an All-American at right guard. He was voted the team’s Lineman of the Year.

A few other lineman have made names for themselves in the jersey for USC. Most recently, Kristofer O’Dowd was an All-Pac-10 first teamer for the Trojans at center, while Donnie Hickman and Larry Petrill also earned All-Conference recognition in No. 61.

Who wears it now?

The jersey is unoccupied going into the 2019 season, but from 2015 through 2018 it was worn with great pride by Jake Olson. He gained national acclaim as the Trojans’ blind long snapper.

Olson lost his eyesight to cancer in 2009 at the age of 12. At that time, he was welcomed by head coach Pete Carroll to spend time with the football team and was adopted as an inspirational figure. In particular, he connected with All-Pac-10 center Kristofer O’Dowd, who wore the No. 61.

Blindness didn’t stop Olson from pursuing his dreams. He learned how to golf without the use of his eyes and figured out the one position on a football field that didn’t necessarily require sight: long snapper.

He learned the skill and won the starting long snapping job at Orange Lutheran High School. After being accepted at USC, he walked-on to the football team.

In 2017, after two years of serving as a reserve, Olson finally accomplished his goal of snapping in a game, sent in for the final point-after attempt in the season-opener against Western Michigan. He let loose a perfect snap.

The Trojans voted him as the Most Inspiration Player for 2017 and the jersey even was being sold in the university’s bookstore. A year later, in 2018, Olson topped it all by winning the Walter Camp Award of Perseverance, along with USC’s Chris Carlisle Courage Award.

Stats to know: 61

  • The Trojans’ 61st-ever All-American was none other than Richard ‘Batman’ Wood. The first time. He was a unanimous selection in 1972 along with five other All-Americans from USC.
  • Remember 4th-and-9? The perfect Matt Leinart pass on an audible to Dwayne Jarrett to set up the most storied touchdown in USC-Notre Dame history? It went for 61 yards.
  • Pasadena is USC’s home away from home. The city, at venues like the Rose Bowl or Tournament Park, has hosted 61 Trojan wins all-time.
  • USC has scored 61 points on three different occasions, including a 61-0 win over Montana on Thanksgiving Day in 1926. That was the Trojans’ first-ever Thursday affair at the Coliseum. No word on how it affected traffic.
  • In 2004, USC set a school record with 61 offensive touchdowns. They shattered it a year later with 83.

62 Days to Kickoff. Next