CFB AM: Blind USC walk-on will fulfill his dream to play for Trojans

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A young Jake Olson with former USC coach Pete Carroll. /‏@ThePeristyle

Update: According to a source, Jake Olson’s situation is progressing in conjunction with the timetable for walk-ons at USC and he’s expected to be part of the program in the fall. The NCAA-related issues described in the original post below were hurdles in April while Jake was still in high school, but the specifics have changed now that he’s enrolled at USC. Walk-ons don’t typically join the Trojans until after the first game, so Jake may have to wait until after the Arkansas State game on Sept. 5 before becoming an official member of the team. Either way, it appears Jake will be a Trojan. The post below appears as it was originally written.

Jake Olson’s story is circulating around a few corners of the Internet again because of an absurd situation he finds himself in at USC.

If you remember, Olson built a connection with USC and former coach Pete Carroll (as seen in the photo above) as a 12-year-old boy faced with going blind due to cancer. He then grew up and became a long snapper at Orange Lutheran High School in Southern California with dreams of walking on at USC. ESPN covered Olson’s story two years ago in this feature:

Now two years later, Olson has been accepted at USC and wants to join the football program, except there’s a slight problem: ridiculous NCAA rules.

A Reddit post suggested Olson’s Make-A-Wish gift from 10 years ago was being examined as an “impermissible benefit” and the cause for him not being allowed to join the Trojans, but that’s not exactly right. USC reporter Michael Lev of the Orange County described the details of Olson’s story back in April. From that story:

Olson, who lost his eyesight as a youth because of a rare form of cancer, is a recipient of a Swim With Mike scholarship, given to athletes with physical challenges. Because that’s considered an athletic scholarship, if Olson walked on to the football team, he would become a “counter” in football — i.e., he would occupy one of the available 85 roster slots.

The way the NCAA determines counters, football supersedes all other sports. According to bylaw, even a student-athlete “who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more (other) sports shall be counted in football.”

Although Olson isn’t planning to participate in another sport, he falls under that category as a Swim With Mike scholarship recipient.

Schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have annual caps of 25 “initial counters” (incoming freshmen and transfers) and 85 total scholarships. USC has reached its limit of initial counters for 2015 — the first year it has been able to add a full recruiting class since 2011 because of NCAA sanctions.

So because Olson received a non-football scholarship given to those with physical disadvantages, he’s viewed the same as Adoree Jackson, Cody Kessler or any other scholarship football player at USC even though Olson will likely only practice with the team and contribute to the Trojans in off-field roles.

Hopefully this story picks up more steam now and pressures the NCAA into granting Olson a waiver that wouldn’t count against USC’s 85 scholarships so the kid can finally join fall practice and be a member of the Trojans. To prevent him from enjoying that experience due to rigid legislation would be completely absurd.


1. Sarkisian will enter alcohol rehab

Quick update on the Sarkisian story: The USC head coach addressed the media on Tuesday and apologized again for his actions, saying he mixed alcohol with medication at USC’s booster event last weekend. Sarkisian also noted that he will be entering a rehab program as part of the process, saying he doesn’t believe he has an alcohol program “but we’ll find that out.” As punishment, USC players had Sarkisian do up-downs at practice on Monday.

QB Cody Kessler’s leadership will help USC get through the Sark distraction, writes Bruce Feldman. Here’s Feldman and Mandel on The Audible discussing how USC has become overwhelming a place of dysfunction.

If Sarkisian really does have an alcohol problem, then best of luck to him and here’s hoping he learns to manage it.

2. The ugly Baylor story takes another turn

An update on the Sam Ukwuachu story: Boise State said accusations of violence against women in regards to Ukwuachu were never brought to the school’s attention and were not the reason for the player’s dismissal. If that’s true, then the Sports Illustrated report that Will Muschamp looked into taking Ukwuachu at Florida but backed out when a Boise State employee informed the Gators of the player’s issues with a girlfriend doesn’t add up and makes Boise look suspicious. According to an ESPN report, Boise State had concerns about Ukwuachu’s mental health when it dismissed him from the program, as three days prior to that a doctor reportedly diagnosed him with major depressive disorder.

So after Art Briles and Chris Petersen refuted each other’s remarks with official statements, we still really don’t know what exactly Boise State knew about Ukwuachu’s situation, what Petersen told Briles or everything that Briles knew about the troubled player he was recruiting. All we can safely assume is that there’s a ton of spinning going on, and at some point people will start to be exposed. Baylor has shut down media access until next week when it prepares for its first game, which seems like an odd choice considering the questions aren’t going away and it feels like this story is just beginning.

3. Now, please, have a laugh

As you can see, it has not been the most fun week in the college football world. Please enjoy this video of comedian Daniel Tosh reading Nick Saban’s biography to children.


* Fired Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon reportedly presented a Big Ten realignment idea that included Michigan not playing Ohio State every year. That’s one way to be not so popular in Ann Arbor, I presume.

* Rutgers is looking into a potential rules violation regarding head coach Kyle Flood.

* I enjoyed this Pete Thamel piece on how Urban Meyer builds culture at Ohio State.

* Kids are hilarious, version No. 9,565: A 10-year-old Ohio State fan is worried heart surgery will make him like Michigan.

Have a great Wednesday, everybody.

Teddy Mitrosilis works in social content development at FOX Sports Digital. Follow him on Twitter @TMitrosilis and email him at

Written by Clay Travis

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Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.