Certain high schools around the country are or should be natural fits to feed Stanford Football, if not the greater Stanford Athletic Department, with their combined powerhouse proficiency in both athletics and academics. St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.). Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village (Calif.). Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell (N.J.). Rockhurst High School in Kansas City (Mo.). Breck School in Minneapolis (Minn.). Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston (Tex.).
One school that belongs in that discussion in Jesuit High School in Portland (Ore.), which is one of the top schools in Oregon and this year is loaded with potential Division I football prospects returning from the Crusaders' 2005 4A State Championship team. The most famous recent Jesuit alumnus is wide receiver Mike Hass, who terrorized the Pac-10 the last few seasons and won the 2005 Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best wideout. Stanford has recruited some recent Jesuit student-athletes, but neither Ian McMilan (2005 class) nor Slade Norris (2004 class) proved scholarship-worthy for the Cardinal. McMilan went a non-scholarship route to Princeton before promptly transferring back to the Pacific Northwest at Washington; Norris walked on at Oregon State. Hass, of course, started his career in Corvallis as a walk-on, as well.
The drought for Stanford in recruiting the prominent Portland school may come to an end this year, however. After a standout, albeit brief, camp performance at Stanford, 5'11" 170-pound Jesuit cornerback Jamaine Olson was promptly offered a scholarship by the Cardinal on June 22. A magical match for both parties, this was Olson's first scholarship offer and the first reported this year from Stanford to a pure cornerback. It nearly did not happen, however.
"One of their coaches came and invited me to their camp this summer. He came and watched a practice. So I went down there [that Wednesday]," Olson begins. "I didn't get in to Stanford until 4:45, right when camp started, because I missed my first plane. Then there was a maintenance problem. I basically got to the camp and had to put on my clothes, get right out onto the field and started testing right away."
"I ran the 40, and then we put on pads and started to do some drills," he continues. "We were at our individual stations, and the DB coach was helping me out a lot - working on my stance and a lot of backpedaling drills. We did the one-on-one's and he kept giving me advice and tips. I actually had to leave a little bit early, to catch my flight and get back to the airport. The coaches really couldn't say anything to me during camp."
After a mere two-plus hours on campus, Olson bolted for the airport to catch an 8:50 pm flight.
"They said we would stay in touch. I said good-bye to all the coaches," the recruit recalls. "Coach [Nate] Nelson texted me and told me to call him when I got a chance. So I called him, and he said that they wanted to offer me a scholarship. I could play for them."
"I didn't exactly expect them to do that, so it was pretty surprising. It was definitely kind of a shock," Olson admits. "[Nelson] said that even though I was only out there for a couple hours, they definitely saw everything they needed to see. 'We think you would fit into the program.'"
"I didn't say much," he adds. "I didn't know how to react. It was kind of a shock. It was really a relief and great to hear that first offer finally."
There is a first-offer effect seen often in recruiting, whereby a prospect waiting on offers becomes wildly enamored with the first school to step up to the plate. Olson was largely an unknown recruit coming into this spring, appearing first on the public radar only after he dazzled as one of the top cornerbacks at the Los Angeles Scout.com Combine in May. He ran a 4.50, one of the top 10 times at the deepest Scout.com Combine this year, and was named First Team All-Combine. As a reference point, the other three First Team All-Combine defensive backs that day have are rated as four-star and three-star prospects.
Stanford could reasonably expect a first-mover advantage in identifying Olson and handing him his first offer. He tells Scout.com that Stanford indeed is today his number one school among his favorites. However, the Portland product says that the Cardinal have been top-of-mind for some time.
"That's not just because they've offered me. I've been talking with my family about what colleges would be best for me and trying to narrow it down. Stanford is right there at the top of our list," he maintains. "I knew that Stanford was definitely a school that I would fit into because it offers such a great education and also is a Pac-10 football school and good program. I always thought that would be a great place for me."
Olson also says that his abbreviated time on campus that warm day in June - his first time on The Farm - reinforced his feelings for the school.
"I expected it to be nice, but when I first arrived on campus, it was kind of like 'wow!' It was a really nice campus," Olson admits. "The facilities all looked great, and it was impressive right from the start. I could tell it was a good place and a great school. I was really impressed, so that started to win me over."
That is not to say, however, that the Cardinal-coveted cornerback is close to committing.
"I never thought that when I get my first offer, yeah, that's the place I'm going to go. I never planned like I want to commit right away," Olson explains. "I've always been told to keep my options open. But I think Stanford is a good school. I'm pretty happy with that offer."
Additionally, Olson understands the admissions process that lies before him to turn Stanford's scholarship offer into an opportunity to attend the school. He reports a 3.5 cumulative GPA at Jesuit, with a 3.4 in his most recently completed semester of coursework. Olson took the June SAT and is expecting that score "any day."
"The way Stanford works is that they treat their athletes just like any other student trying to get into Stanford," the recruit relates. "I have to apply and write the essays and have all the credentials and stuff to get in just like any other student would. Basically it is now up to me to come through with the SAT and make sure I maintain my grades. As long as I get accepted, everything is good."
Since his coming out at the Scout.com Combine, Olson has been hearing from more schools. He names California, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington as rounding out his top five favorites. Two of those schools hosted him in June as part of a whirlwind weekend that saw him camp at Oregon State on Friday, work at the Eugene Nike Camp on Saturday, and then camp at Oregon on Sunday. It was logistically a smart schedule, though he knows that the wear of each successive day's workouts took a massive toll.
Oregon State - "I think I did really good. I played great. I tested really well - ran a 4.47 in the 40, so that was pretty impressive. Oregon State really took a lot out of me. I was tired and sore the next day. It was a long weekend."
Eugene Nike Camp - "At the Nike Combine, I ran a 4.6 40 with automatic timing. In the 10-yard dash I had the fastest time in the whole camp. It was real fun to do all of those tests. We did a lot of drills, and the one-on-ones were fun."
Oregon - "It went pretty good. I think I played decent, but my legs were really, really tired by the end of the day, so it was a sigh of relief once the camp was over for me to go home."
As June turns to July, most of the college camp season has wrapped up. Most recruits are now turning their eyes toward rest and repair before they start their preseason high school training camps. For Olson, though, another season is still peaking. He has run summer track for most of the last decade, and this year may be his biggest yet. Olson is competing in the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, which proceed in three stages of qualifying and competition. The state meet for Oregon took place last weekend in Salem, with Olson finishing third in the 100m, 200m and 400m. Up next is the Region 13 qualifier, again in Salem, on July 6-9. Top finishers there will advance to the July 25-30 Championships in Baltimore (Md.).
Training and competing in track will keep Olson occupied this month, but his is a story on which we will keep a close eye. Cornerback recruiting for the Cardinal is always a top priority, given the scarcity of athletes who can run and change direction at a Pac-10 level with Stanford-level academics. Stay tuned for much more as the Jamaine Olson story unfolds.
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