Jake Olson will likely be able to take the stairs three at a time.
The Ticats offensive tackle – who stands 6-foot-8, 315 pounds –will be hosting a stair climb at Tim Hortons Field on Sept. 19 in conjunction with the Ontario Lung Association to raise awareness for asthma. In the latest in our season-long series of interviews with Ticat players and personnel, The Spectator’s Drew Edwards talks to Olson about coming to Canada, dealing with injuries and his fight to breathe.
Drew Edwards: Where are you from, originally?
Jake Olson: Hartford, Wisconsin about 45 minutes west of Milwaukee. It’s a small little town, about 14,000. I worked on farms in high school and made money bailing hay. I never really cared for it: it’s hot and made my asthma worse.
DE: Tell me about your asthma. When were you diagnosed?
JO: It was in elementary school. I want to recess and the rest of the day, I couldn’t catch my breath. When my mom picked me up, my lips were starting to turn blue.
DE: When you play, is it more difficult?
JO: Sometimes it takes me a bit longer to catch my breath, especially when we come off after a long drive. At that point, the inhalers help.
DE: You’ve become involved with the Ontario Lung Association for the stair climb at Tim Hortons Field. Why?
JO: A lot of people won’t play sports after they are diagnosed with asthma because it’s hard for them. But if you stay up on your maintenance, inhalers – I have one that I take daily and another for emergencies – it makes a big difference. I mean, I’ve made it this far and it hasn’t stopped me.
DE: You had some injuries in college, too.
JO: Yeah, I had a knee injury and a wrist surgery and I only played maybe three games my last two years of college. Playing professional football was a long shot for me but I kept trying and got a shot up here.
DE: So you kept training.
JO: I did. I went to mini-camp with the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins but it didn’t go anywhere – I think they just used as a body. Hamilton called me and I was like ‘yeah, I’ll come play.’
DE: And you started at left tackle after something like two weeks of practice.
JO: It was quick – they told me they needed help on the offensive line. I was staying in a hotel, then the practice roster house… the football wasn’t the hard part, it was everything else. It’s a big change and finding your way around, especially in Hamilton with all the one way streets, was tough. I got lost everywhere. Dan LeFevour and Greg Wojt, who I knew from Central Michigan, helped me out.
DE: Was LeFevour was involved in getting you up here?
JO: I think he put a good word in and he called me before the team did, telling me that he was trying to get me up here. And it happened.
DE: How’s the adjustment been in year two?
JO: It’s a lot better now that I know who I’m playing with – last year I didn’t even know the guy next to me. Now we’ve built some relationships and have accountability to each other.
DE: What’s life after football look like?
JO: Well, I just bought a house in Grand Blanc, Michigan with my fiance. I worked at a lumber this off-season – I was only training so I was kind of bored because I can only play so many video games and watch so much NetFlix.
DE: What do you want to do?
JO: My degree is in sociology and I did my internship as a probation officer but I don’t think that’s for me. I might go back school when I’m done but we’ll see. Right now, I’m playing football and that’s good enough for me.
Notes: Defensive tackle Ted Laurent and linebacker Simoni Lawrence – both East Division all-stars last season – practiced for the first time this week and could be available for Sunday’s contest against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That’s good news for Hamilton, given that the Riders are the CFL’s top rushing team.