One of the most heartwarming stories you’ll ever see continues to give, even after the first week of the 2017 college football season has been put to bed.
In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Jake Olson, a teenage fan at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old). It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.
Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015. He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game. While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, Saturday, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.
Watching from afar was Carroll, now the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Following practice Monday, Carroll spent a significant period of time discussing just what it meant for Olson to play in a college football game, saying in part that he “couldn’t stop crying” because of what he had witnessed.
From the team’s official website:
That was an incredible moment. 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. …
“He’s going to be a big factor. 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. …“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
“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.
On his Instagram account over the weekend, Olson gave a heartfelt thank you to Carroll for taking him in and embracing him as a 12-year-old.
“To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you,” a portion of Olson’s post read. “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.”
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to achieve a lifelong dream and snap in a game for the USC Trojans. I cannot possibly thank all the people who have played a role in making this happen, but there are some people who I feel deserve special shout-outs. Mom, Dad, and Emma, none of this would have been possible without you guys. You have always been there for me, and there is simply no way I would be where I am today without your love and support. I am beyond blessed to have such an amazing family. Coaches Helton and Baxter, thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to show what I can do. You push me every day on the field, and I am lucky to have you as coaches and mentors. To all my teammates, especially my special teams unit, thank you for being there for me and allowing me to feel so comfortable as a member of the team. To my friends, thank you for always supporting me and helping me get where I need to go. To Coach Carroll, none of this would have been possible without you. 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. Yesterday was a big day in my life, and I am hoping it’s the first of many, so stay tuned. Thank you everyone. It means the world to me knowing that I can and have inspired many through this experience. #fighton
Florida Gulf Coast University does not have a football program, nor does the school have any plans to add a football program to its sports department. So when some football players started receiving offers to come play football at FGCU, there was bound to be some confusion.
According to a statement released by Florida Gulf Coast University on Wednesday, a non-employee was extending offers to for a club team at FGCU. So anyone receiving an offer could have potentially thought the university itself was looking to recruit that player to the university to play for an NCAA football program.
“Unfortunately, we have been notified that a non-employee, volunteer with the football sport club has extended “offers” to come to FGCU and play football to more than 100 individuals across the country,” the statement said. “This has been done without FGCU’s knowledge or sanction, and has caused a great deal of confusion to not only the individuals receiving the “offers” but to others reading accounts on social media.”
On the one hand, it is deceptive to pose “offers” to come play football at a university that doesn’t field a football program and those responsible should pay whatever consequences there may be for such a deception. On the other hand, that is one savvy way to try and recruit actual football talent to improve the skill on a club team. What’s next, boosters for club teams? Well, actually, let’s not give anyone any bad ideas.
One member of the Teas A&M football program will begin evaluating his options to play elsewhere. Linebacker Brian Johnson has reportedly entered the NCAA transfer portal. News of Johnson entering the transfer portal was first reported by Matt Zenitz of Al.com, via Twitter.
By entering the transfer portal, Johnson is free to communicate with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. Johnson can always return to Texas A&M too by pulling his name out of the portal at any time. While not unprecedented, it seems most players that enter the transfer portal do eventually move on to a new home.
As noted by Zenitz, Johnson appeared in just four games this season. According to the NCAA redshirt rules, Johnson will be able to use a redshirt year for the 2019 season and preserve one year of eligibility. Having played as a true freshman in 2018, Johnson still will have three years of eligibility remaining. However, one of those years will be burned while Johnson sits out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program. That will leave Johnson with two years of eligibility at his disposal beginning in 2021 at any other FBS program.
The final list of players left in the running for the Bronko Nagurski Award for the 2019 season has been released by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Two players from the Big Ten and two from the SEC are joined by one player from the ACC.
Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young are the five finalists for the award for best defensive player in college football.
The winner for this year’s Nagurski Award will be announced at a banquet on Dec. 9. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is the keynote speaker for the banquet this year and former UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson will be honored as this year’s Bronko Nagurski Legends Award winner.
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen won the Nagurski Award last season. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State all have had one player win the Naruski Award before. Champ Bailey won the award for Georgia in 1998. Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis won the award in 2006. Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers won the award in 2010. Auburn and Minnesota have never had a Bronko Nagurski Award winner and hope to add their first this season. Other past winners include Pitt’s Aaron Donald, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Boston College’s Luke Kuechley, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. The current head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats is the only two-time winner of the award, having done so in 1995 and 1996.
Get your last bit of Belk Bowl goodness this upcoming bowl season, because one of the quirkiest bowl games is about to have a new name.
According to a Joe Person of The Athletic, via Twitter, Belk will not be renewing its contract to be the corporate sponsor for the bowl game and early season kickoff game organized by the Charlotte Sports Foundation.
The Belk Bowl has been one of the more entertaining and fun bowl games to follow on Twitter due to the social media handler’s ability to be witty and charismatic with the college football Twittersphere, but the Belk Bowl has seen its share of good games over the course of the corporate sponsorship as well. While last year’s game was a dud (Virginia beat South Carolina 28-0), the previous season’s meeting between Wake Forest and Texas A&M was a 55-52 shootout won by the Demon Deacons.
The Belk Bowl was previously named the Meineke Car Care Bowl from 2005 through 2010, and before that was the Continental Tire Bowl from 2002 through 2004. The Belk Bowl certainly is not going to be dropping off the bowl schedule given how well it generally does with attendance with its partnership with the ACC and SEC (the Big Ten will begin alternating appearances with the SEC from 2020 through 2025), but now a new sponsor will have to take over the lead.
The Belk Kickoff Game, first played in 2015, still has three upcoming matchups locked in the schedule. So the kickoff game will live on, at least for the next three seasons, just with a new sponsor. It is expected the new sponsor of the bowl game will take on the sponsorship of the kickoff game as well. Wake Forest will meet Notre Dame in the 2020 game, followed by East Carolina and Appalachian State in 2021 and South Carolina and North Carolina in 2023. No game is currently booked for 2022. UNC topped the Gamecocks in this season’s opener in the Belk College Kickoff, 24-20.
This season’s Belk Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 31.