Born with a rare cancer called retinoblastoma, Jack Olson had his left eye removed when he was only 8 months old in order to survive. But that’s definitely not the end of story. In fact, despite the title of “blind cancer survivor”, he’s got a life, which is far more colorful than many of ours.
Indeed, it all started with the cancer. “When the doctors found my cancer, it was completely taking over my left eye,” Jack said. “The greatest fear is the cancer spreading through the optic nerve to the brain.” There were rounds of chemotherapy and laser treatment which was supposed to cut off the spreading cancer. But sadly, at the age of 12, Jack was informed that he would have to lose his right eye too. He was lost and unprepared, of course. “I didn’t feel completely hopeless, but there was this sense of ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna do anything anymore.’”he recalled.
Fortunately, as an enthusiastic fan of USC Trojan, Jack can always find comfort from witnessing any of their matches and practice sessions “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.”
While Jack’s dream for sports did pay off after all. Pete Carroll, the former coach of USC, noticed the motivated boy and decided to Invite him to have more personal interaction with the team closely.
“Little did I know, he had all these plans,” Jake said. ”Introducing me to the team, having me sit on meetings, going to practice and eating dinner afterwards. And then after that, it just escalated into being a part of the team [as an honorary member]. Everything about it was just amazing and something that I will always be grateful for.”
Apparently, the kindness from Pete not only offered Jack a chance to be with the team but also waked his confidence and passion for life. He made the step for trying different ways to get involved in his high school’s football team, and at last, he fitted in perfectly as a long snapper. “It kind of clicked in my mind that it is a consistent position in that you’re snapping the same distance for every snap,” he explained. “You definitely have the mechanics of what you’re supposed to do, but a lot of it is just feel.”
In the end of 2012, Jack met coach Chuck Peterson and asked for a position in the team. But they just didn’t take him so seriously. However, Jack insisted practicing hard with all his extra time and he received the help from one coach in the summer. And when he came back in August, he was able to prove what he can do to the team and coaches there. From then on, he learned and practice as a starter with his teammates’ guidance on to the field, lining up the ball.
Experience and all those hard training speak for themselves. In 2015, Olson was admitted by the current coach Steve Sarkisian in University of Southern California, making his lifelong dream come true. “Tomorrow I walk out onto Howard Jones field not as a fanboy or a honorary member, but as a player for the USC Trojans!” he wrote on his tweet.
It can be uneasy for every freshmen, while Jack haven’t had any desire of being treated differently. He is just part of the team like anyone else. “He comes to every meeting. He’s there. He’s attentive. He’s on time or early. He came out to practice. He had on the proper attire, and he practiced. Our guys have, I think, enjoyed having Jake around because I think it puts things into perspective for them.” said Sarkisian.
Surrounded by prejudice and doubt, Olson’s dream was not only playing one real game, but becoming the regular long-snapper for the team. During the spring game on April 16, Olsen delivered perfect snaps on two field goal attempts. With the admirable performance, he won himself a lot of embrace from the beloved team and of course a large round of applause.
“Going through adversity or challenges in life, it really does make you stronger. Life is unfair, football’s unfair, things are unfair. But at the same time, it’s up to you how far you want to take yourself. It’s taught me not to give up. It’s taught me to keep fighting.”
Finally, it’s now Jack Olson’s turn to inspire people and pass his courage.