After years of cheering for his favorite college football team, University of Southern California student Jake Olson has achieved the impossible dream – despite being completely blind, he is now a part of the team, playing as long snapper for the USC Trojans, approaching the game based on feel rather than sight.
Born with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the retina, Jake lost his left eye when he was only eight months old. “When the doctors found my cancer, it was completely taking over my left eye,” he said. “The greatest fear is the cancer spreading through the optic nerve to the brain.” So the eye had to be removed entirely, followed by several rounds of chemotherapy and laser treatment to prevent the cancer from spreading to the right eye. Sadly, it kept coming back. At age 12, Jake received news that he would have to lose his right eye as well. “Realizing what I was going to be confronting… a life without sight, it was difficult. I didn’t feel completely hopeless, but there was this sense of ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna do anything anymore.’”
Being a lifelong Trojan fan, one of Jake’s last wishes before he lost his eye was to watch them play at Notre Dame and also to witness a practice session the night before the surgery. “There were nights of crying and stressful times when I couldn’t get the thought of going blind out of my psyche,” he said, speaking to the LA Times. “But every time I was up at USC or talking to one of the players or just being around, it was just pure fun. And truthfully, peace.”