With no shortage of negative stories surrounding college football and sports in general, it’s always nice to see some positive news.
The University of Southern California (USC) football team has welcomed a blind long snapper onto their football team. Freshman Jake Olson is a long snapper attending USC on a special scholarship for disabled athletes. He’s started to participate in practice and head coach Steve Sarkisian is hoping to get him into actual game action at some point during the season.
Olson is a longtime supporter of the Trojans’ football program. As a child, he would frequently attend USC games and practices as a guest of former coach Pete Carroll before he lost his eyesight to cancer at the age of 12. Undeterred, he played football at Orange County High School, snapping on punts and field goal attempts.
In his first practice, he delivered a couple of perfect snaps to set up field goals. He hasn’t faced a live rush and he wears a yellow ‘no contact’ jersey of the type typically worn by players recovering from injuries. While Olson has a goal of eventually becoming the team’s long snapper in game situations that might not be practical for a variety of reasons.
Despite that, it hasn’t kept Coach Sarkisian from trying to find a situation to at least get him into a live game. The coach is aware of the significance it would have not only for Olson but, “A sheer sportsmanship standpoint. It sends a tremendous message for college athletics.” Sarkisian said there is no timetable for getting Olson into a game, but stresses that it would have to be in a situation where there is a mutual agreement with the other team’s coaches and players. The goal is to make sure that the experience is a positive one and doesn’t place Olson at any risk.
Until then, Olson will continue to participate in practice. Sarkisian said that his presence alone is good for the team as a morale booster and to keep things in perspective. He suggests that it’s a reminder to players that they have it “pretty good” and not to get down about short-term challenges.