Be Your Own Icon: Jake Olson
This year has been marked by several ‘feel good' stories. One of the greatest of them is Jake Olson's story. Jake Olson has proven to us that light emanates from the human soul and not just from the sun. Being blind, Jake has come face to face with a series of challenges. However, he decided from a young age to go out and ‘attack life'- and attack he did.
Jake Olson is a famous blind long snapper in college football. This year, he played for USC's Trojans against West Michigan and snapped the ball on the final extra point earning the Trojans a 49-31 win against their opponents. Olson is also a leading motivational speaker who has graced several platforms across the United States. He has fought cancer eight times in his life and believes that the only way to prove his appreciation to the people who have stood by him is by showing them that cancer was not going to stop him no matter what.
Olson was born with a rare form of cancer of the retina called retinoblastoma. He had his left eye removed at 10 months. At the age of 12, the cancer returned, forcing his doctors to remove his only remaining eye. Olson says that his battle with cancer taught him how to face adversity and fight. He hated how emotionally draining his cancer was to the people who loved him. In an interview with USC football, he says "It would make it so much worse for them if I were depressed and let cancer beat me. I wanted to prove to them, and everyone in the world, that cancer isn't going to stop me." He maintained a positive outlook on life even after losing both his eyes at the age of 12.
Olson had been a fan of the Trojans from a young age. Before the surgery that would render him completely blind, he asked to watch the Trojans one last time to hold the image in his mind even after he became blind. His request reached Trojan's coach Pete Carroll who did everything to make Olson's last visual wish come to pass. In an interview with SBNation, Carroll says, on hearing the request "The first thing was to make sure that he gets inside and gets to see everything that he wants to see, God bless him; he deserved every bit of it."
After the surgery, Olson became an honorary member of the USC football team. Eventually, he made it to his high school football team as a long snapper before he joined USC's team in 2015.
ASPIRATIONS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As a child, and even after losing his eye sight, Olson had dreamt of becoming the first blind doctor on the PGA tour. His parents attest that he had wanted so much to walk the golf course so that he would always have a vision of what the course looked like in his mind first hand so that when he went back to play after he was blind, he could still play and win. He had all these dreams before he even had a golf swing.
Olson says that he tried to make consistent solid contact with the ball for about six months. "There were days that were completely frustrating- throwing clubs, not seeing results, just frustrating. But I wasn't going to let none of that stop me." With the help of his dad, he was able to play on the Orange Lutheran High varsity golf team.
Soon after going blind, Olson became committed to becoming a motivational speaker. He was invited to great platforms like Allergan, one of the world's largest pharmaceuticals companies. He was also invited to speak at Wells Fargo in Thousand Oaks, California. He has since been a guest speaker at more than 500 events. He has confessed how nervous he often feels when speaking to crowds, but he has mastered the art of talking down his nervousness and using his story and talent to challenge other people.
LESSONS FROM JAKE
From his experiences, Jake has learned the principle of accepting life as it comes and making the best out of it. He says that people are very quick to point out fingers and blame other people for their misfortunes, however, the beauty of every tragedy comes when the person most hit by it uses it as a stepping stone rather than an excuse for depression or failure.
Olson had the choice to become the victim of his circumstances or a warrior in his fight against cancer. He chose the latter. He perceives his situation as a blessing in disguise, and his blindness has never been a hindrance to him. Olson's success in football is only a starting point for everything he still wishes to accomplish in life. With the kind of attitude he has, we are sure he will achieve above and beyond what everyone expects of him. Today, American Sunglass recognizes this ambitious gentleman as an Icon!