Pete Carroll and Jake Olson have a bond that dates back to Carroll's days at USC when Olson was a 12-year-old Trojans fan who was about to lose a second eye to cancer.
Olson visited the team prior to a 2009 surgery to remove his right eye—he lost his left eye to cancer two years earlier—and he and Carroll formed a friendship then that continued long after Carroll left Los Angeles to become the coach of the Seahawks.
So when Olson took the field late in USC's victory over Western Michigan Saturday as the Trojans' long snapper, it wasn't just fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum who were getting emotional as he appeared in his first game.
"That was an incredible moment," Carroll said following Monday's practice. "I'm so glad that (USC) Coach (Clay) Helton figured out a way to create the opportunity for Jake to show what he could do. This is just an extraordinary young man. Jake has done stuff throughout his life. From the time he was 10 years old, he has been doing remarkable things—he wrote his first book at 10—and onward. For a guy to out there and play in a college football game, snap a ball, they kick the extra point and make it, that's just something, that's just something about Jake. Jake's a huge story. He's one for all of us about courage and character and grit and vision and special qualities that few people would be able to hold onto."
For a blind man to take part in a Division I football game, even for one play, is remarkable, but Carroll knows Olson has much bigger things in store down the road.
"He's going to be a big factor," Carroll said. "We're all going to see him do a lot of stuff in this world. There's nothing holding Jake back. I was so excited to see it, I couldn't stop crying. It was thrilling. It was good to see a Trojan win too, but it was really something."
And while Olson might not have talked specifically about being a long snapper when he was a 12-year-old visiting his favorite team, he did have big dreams even then, so Carroll wasn't surprised to see Olson take the field for one of college football's top programs.
"I don't know if Jake was thinking about being a snapper when he was 11 or 12, but what Jake wanted to do, he wanted to play in the Masters," Carroll said. "He wanted to go to that course before he lost his sight, he wanted to go walk that course so he'd always have the vision of what the course looked like in his mind first-hand so that when he went back to play it when he couldn't see, he could still play and win the thing. Think of that. And that's before he had a golf swing. He has an extraordinary golf swing (now), he can hit the heck out of the ball."
"I would have imagined that Jake would have been dreaming about playing for the Trojans, but the fact that it could ever come true, I would have not have thought that was possible. But then again, it's Jake, so anything's possible."
In a post on Instagram, Olson thanked not just his current coaches and teammates for helping his Trojans debut take place, but also Carroll for his role in bringing Olson into the "Trojan Family."
"To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you," Olson wrote. "If you hadn't made me a member of the Trojan Family when I was 12, I don't know where my life would be. You are a special person, and I will be forever thankful for your generosity."