Many have seen the highlight of blind USC long-snapper Jake Olson during an extra point try in the Trojan’s win over Western Michigan last week, but it’s unlikely they know his full story – or at least know it the way ESPN reporter Shelley Smith does. Smith revisits his story Saturday on ESPN’s College GameDay (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) and Sunday morning on E:60 (9 a.m., ESPN2.)
Smith, who has been covering Olson’s story since 2009, recalls the first time she heard about the Huntington Beach, Calif. native from SportsCenter producer Michael Fountain.
“I was driving to Notre Dame for the USC game and Michael told me about this little kid, Jake, who had a month of sight left,” Smith said. “I had to pull over. My heart hurt for this kid, without even having met him yet. When I did meet him, my world changed. How much, I wouldn’t know until I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and his story directly inspired me.”
The GameDay and E:60 pieces with will be the eighth and ninth stories Smith has done on Olson and will include new interviews with Olson, his parents and his teammates as well as footage of the moments leading up to and following the extra point.
“As he has achieved and grown (literally, take a look at him now) we have stayed with him and documented all that he has done,” Smith said. “E:60’s Nancy Devaney has produced all of these with such passion and determined care. She’s the one who made it all happen.
“What he has done is, perhaps, the most courageous and persistent feats I’ve ever been around. He has solidly refused to let being blind stand in his way of accomplishing anything he wants,” she said. “He golfs, he surfs, he drove Pete Carroll’s jet ski. . . one of Pete’s friends said it best, that Pete and Jake are the same person just 40 years apart. Both incredibly positive and upbeat and determined to always compete and live life to the fullest.”