LOS ANGELES -- Jake Olson, a blind long-snapper, has officially joined the USC football team as a walk-on and practiced with the team for the first time Tuesday.
In full pads and a yellow noncontact jersey, Olson spent most of the practice on the sideline but was a full participant as the Trojans' kickers, separate from the rest of the team, practiced extra points.
Olson also spent time, paired with one teammate at a time, doing snapping drills throughout the rainy morning practice.
"It was a surreal feeling being out there at practice," Olson said in a statement released by the school. "I can't thank enough everyone who helped make this possible, all the coaches, staff and players at USC, the compliance and medical staffs here, the Swim With Mike program and the NCAA. I'm excited to help this team in any way I can and be a great teammate. I love this team and I always have, and now it feels great to be a part of it. Fight On!"
Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer, and lost his left eye when he was 10 months old. In 2009, at age 12, he learned he needed surgery to remove his right eye, which would completely cost him his vision.
Around that time, the lifelong USC fan developed close ties with the Trojans program, coached then by Pete Carroll. Olson traveled with the team for a game at Notre Dame and spent the night before his surgery at USC watching practice.
Even without his vision, Olson joined the football team at Orange Lutheran High, located about 35 miles from USC, where he became the long-snapper on field goals and extra points. USC punter Reid Budrovich, who worked closely with Olson in practice Tuesday, competed in the same high school league as Olson and said he remembers coming away impressed.
"I don't think anyone took it easy on him [in high school games] because he did all the snaps," Budrovich said. "It wasn't like they just brought him in for one snap. He did all the field goal stuff. Nobody took it easy."
Because Olson is on scholarship through the Swim With Mike program, which provides funds for individuals who have suffered a serious accident or illness, USC needed a waiver from the NCAA so he would not count against the program's 85-scholarship limit. USC's compliance department made the request on Aug. 19.
"Jake's case is a great example of the NCAA national office and its members working together to provide opportunities to college athletes," said Dave Schnase, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, in a statement provided by USC. "We are happy that Jake has the opportunity to wear a USC jersey and perhaps even join his teammates on the field this fall."
It is unclear whether, or at what point, Olson will appear in a game, but coach Steve Sarkisian said the hope is that will happen eventually.
"I'm proud of the work he put in," Sarkisian said. "It's a real credit to a lot of people to get this done. It's a credit to your compliance office to work with the NCAA. It's a credit to the NCAA to understand that this is a special situation to allow Jake to be a part of our football team."
Olson is expected to be in uniform Saturday when No. 6 USC (2-0) hosts Stanford (1-1) at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.