Jake spent the night before surgery rooting on the Trojans at a team practice and getting a last look at his new teammates. Carroll told Jake that the team loved him and made him promise that he would come back after his surgery Nov. 12.
"Being at practice with the guys there wasn't this intensity of what we were confronting the next day, said Jake's father, Brian. "It turned out to be this really sweet moment, and I'll never forget that scene and neither will Jake." On the day of surgery, the family sneaked O'Dowd into the hospital as "Uncle Kris."
"The nurse came in and gave him his IV and that's when Jake just broke down, just emotionally broke down and his parents broke down. I broke down," O'Dowd said. "I went up and gave him a kiss on the head and just told him, 'You're the strongest kid I've ever known and keep being who you are and everything will work out.'"
O'Dowd's words and presence managed to ease some of Jake's pain.
"It was a tough morning. My mom woke me up and I started crying and she started crying and it never stopped throughout the morning. But as soon as Kris got there, I felt a little better," Jake said. "I just didn't want that day to come. It wasn't the fear of being blind; it was more like, all right, this is my last minute to see, last hours -- that was the fear."
Upon waking from surgery, Jake saw a white light and was comforted when he heard his parents' voices.
"When I got home, I really didn't feel sorry," he said. "Now it's already happened and I can move on."
Just six days after surgery, Jake was able to fulfill the promise he made to his new teammates and, walking with the aid of a blind stick, re-joined the Trojans at practice. Whenever each player greeted Jake, he said his name.
"It's Matt Barkley," the USC quarterback said.
"Hey, Barkley how you doing," answered Jake.
"It's Joe," said tailback Joe McKnight.
"What's up, Joe?" Jake said.
And just because Jake couldn't see anymore didn't make the tackles on the field any less vivid.
"I mean it's kind of more fun to hear the hits than to actually see the hits," he said. "It's like -- Oh, what just happened?!"
And then it was Jake who ended up lifting the Trojans, who had lost to Stanford a few days earlier. Jake told them not to "feel bad."
"Guys, you lost, but we'll get them next year and the year after that and year after that all right!"
On Saturday before the USC-Arizona game, Jake and his sister, Emma, were on the field for the coin flip and then led the band in the "William Tell Overture" before the fourth quarter.
Jake said, "It was awesome."