LOS ANGELES, Dec. 6, 2009 — -- For 12-year-old Jake Olson, football is not a game, it is a passion, whether he's playing center on the seventh- grade Huntington Christian School flag football team, or cheering on his favorite team, the USC Trojans.
When Jake was a year old, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a condition in which cancerous tumors develop in the retina, in both eyes. Doctors removed his left eye, but with chemotherapy and radiation, they were able to save his right.
That right eye has shown him his world -- the faces of his parents, his twin sister, Emma, the surf near his home in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the fairways and greens of nearby golf courses, where he and his father play as often as they can.
The cancer has returned eight times, and each time, Jake beat it. However, this past September, he learned it had come back again, and this time treatment didn't work. Doctors told him they would have to take his right eye, too.
It was news that Jake processed quickly.
"I said, 'How you doing, buddy?'" said his mother, Cindy Olson. "He goes, 'Yeah, mom this is just going to be a new stage of my life."
"I'm just sad I won't be able to see them ever again," Jake said. "It's so hard, and yet cancer wins. But I'm going to experience something no one else can experience."
With more than a month before his surgery, Jake told his parents that what he wanted to see most one last time was another USC Trojans game. His wish reached Trojan head coach, Pete Carroll.
"The first thing was let's make sure that he gets inside and gets to see everything that he wants to see," Carroll said. "God bless him, he deserves every bit of it."
The Trojans invited Jake to practice Oct. 14, where he was introduced to his favorite player, center Kris O'Dowd. It wasn't long before a bond was born between the fellow centers.
"When I met this kid, I really felt a connection with him because it's just really rare for somebody to reach out to an offensive lineman, someone in our position," O'Dowd said. "He gave us these words of wisdom. It's amazing how a seventh-grader can make 100 guys dead quiet and just hear every word that comes out of his mouth, because they have mutual respect and love for this kid Jake."