USC's Olson Nominated for Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award
USC’s Jake Olson is this week’s nominee for the 2015 Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.
Olson, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound freshman long snapper from Huntington Beach, Calif., lost his eyesight to cancer but officially joined the Trojans on Sept. 15 as a walk-on. Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina. He lost his left eye when he was 10 months old and had his right eye removed when he was 12, in 2009, despite a number of procedures.
“I just started practice,” Olson said after his first game Saturday, according to The Los Angeles Times. “I’m just out there showing people what I’ve got. ... I don’t want any special treatment in a sense of putting me above any other long snapper that’s on the team just because I am who I am.
“I want to work my way up to it. And so I’m just a freshman. … I want to continue to improve. When the day comes, I just want to be out there and snap like anyone else and make PATs and field goals all night long.”
Olson wears a yellow non-contact jersey in practice, but he is in the mix on snapping and helping on special teams. He received a scholarship to attend USC from Swim With Mike’s Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. Since that scholarship is considered athletic aid, the Trojans sought an NCAA waiver on Aug. 19 so that Olson did not count against their 85-man scholarship limit.
A lifelong USC fan who had been welcomed to the team as a visitor by former head coach Pete Carroll, Olson served as a long snapper his junior and senior seasons at Orange Lutheran High. He played golf as well. Current USC head coach Steve Sarkisian had said that Olson would be welcomed as part of the team, with the goal of having him snap during a game.
The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa's Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).
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