Jan. 14—It's been nearly 30 years since Jason Oliver put on the pads as a defensive back and played Pac-10 football, but if all goes as planned, his namesake will have a similar opportunity in the fall.
The former USC standout was on hand Friday afternoon when his son, Jason Oliver Jr., finalized that possible scenario when he officially signed a national letter of intent to play football at Pac-12 rival Colorado.
"I've been talking to the coach for a while now and he's always been pushing for me with his coaching staff, to give me an opportunity," said Oliver Jr., who verbally committed on a Zoom call on Wednesday, two days after receiving an offer. "I couldn't pass up the chance to be a Buff, so ... when it came to me, I took it."
It was a dream come true for Oliver Jr., who says he was often asked while growing up if he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and play for the Trojans.
"I definitely thought it would have been cool, but it really wasn't my only goal," said Oliver Jr. "That wasn't the only place that I had in mind. They weren't my only option or the only school I wanted to go to in the Pac-12.
"To play in the Pac-12 Conference is a really big deal. Just growing up in California, you always watch games and it's always the Pac-12 on TV, and so I think that's the biggest motivation. Just me always seeing those games on TV and growing up watching them, and now I get to play in those games."
The younger Oliver, a two-way standout at Liberty High, solidified his stature as a top recruit after making key contributions to help the Patriots reach the CIF State Division 1-A title game as a wide receiver, defensive back and return man on special teams.
"I'm just extremely proud of the young man," said Oliver Sr., who starred at Bakersfield High before posting 11 career interceptions during a four-year career at USC from 1990-93. "At this point, his mother and I ... it was a whirlwind of emotions, it happened so quickly. You get into a situation where you work toward something that's been one of his dreams, and once it's upon you, it's a little different than the planning stage. Having been at that level, I couldn't be prouder and hopefully he can reach his potential, not only on the field, but off it, of course."
Oliver Jr. had offers from nine other NCAA Division I schools, including Cal and Oregon State from the Pac-12, but when the Buffaloes made their offer, Oliver didn't take long to decide.
"Colorado just seemed like an awesome place to go and play football, and further my education, so that was really the biggest thing for me," said Oliver Jr., whose decision was aided by several conversations with his family and another future Colorado player, former Centennial linebacker Eoghan Kerry, who committed to the school after playing the last two seasons at national-power Mater Dei.
Already attracting interest after an impressive sophomore campaign at Liberty, Oliver Jr. missed most of the spring season with a strained right hamstring, an injury that continued to nag him in the fall.
But with continued treatment, Oliver's health improved, and by the end of the season he took his play to another level.
That high-level play was demonstrated on the biggest of stages. In his team's 35-7 victory over Pittsburg in the Northern California Regional Division 1-A Bowl Game, Oliver caught three touchdown passes and had three long punt returns to help Liberty to its first regional title.
"He played his best games at the end of the year," Liberty head football coach Bryan Nixon said. "Against the best teams we were playing against, he was lights out in all three phases.
"He (provided) great leadership for us and he was a huge attribute to the success of this football team. He was such a team guy, we lined him up in different places. Offensively, defensively, special teams wise. He did whatever it took for the team to be successful and he succeeded in every phase. He was awesome and it sure was fun to watch him play his best football at the end of the year."
For the season, Oliver finished with a team-high 40 catches for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a score and averaged almost 20 yards per kickoff return. Defensively, he had 37 tackles, eight pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"He has a very high football IQ and he's a three-way threat," Nixon said. "He can score on offense, blocks well offensively. Defensively, he's a great cover guy, a very physical corner. We even put him at safety this year. We were able to put him in a lot of different places, and definitely a threat special teams wise. So A guy like that, he's a D-I talent, and you know he's going to be successful because he's going to work his tail off."
Oliver won't have to wait long to put his work ethic to the test. He's decided to graduate early and plans to travel to Boulder, Colo., on Monday, a day before spring courses are due to start.
"It was really emotional when I first got the offer," Oliver Jr. said. "It was something I had to talk with my family about. (Colorado's coaches) made it known that they wanted me to come up early when they extended the offer, they wanted me to come up this weekend. My mom started crying, I started crying a little bit, just because I thought I had more time, and now I don't. I have to leave all my friends, I don't get to run track this year, all these things that I thought that I would have, that I don't."
But the 17-year-old Oliver is eager to get started, and realizes his best opportunity to play next year will be fortified during the spring workouts, which are due to start on Tuesday, as well.
"Going to Colorado it's a unique situation," Oliver Jr. said. "They had a whole bunch of transfers at the DB position. Their DB coach left and went to Oregon and a couple of their guys transferred out to other schools. So for me to go in early and start learning the defense and get my name out to the coaches early and start playing in front of them is really an opportunity for me to fight for some playing time. As a freshman, that would be an awesome thing to do."
And his father and mother, Nicole, plan to provide plenty of support from home in Bakersfield.
"You see the peaks and valleys, and you know, it's all part of the process," said Oliver Sr., who has served as Liberty's defensive backs and receivers coach the past few years. "We always say trust the process, and it's really rewarding to see him do that and then it worked out the way that it did. Because I saw him put the work in. You go through the injuries, you go through the hard work, the academics, putting in all the weight room time, just a culmination."
It also represents the first time Oliver Sr. won't be coaching his son.
"I've coached him his entire life, so it is kind of tough to realize that I will not be coaching him, since I will not be the secondary coach for the University of Colorado," said Oliver Sr. with a laugh. "Those things are going to be tough as a coach and as a dad, but I'm really excited about the opportunity for him."
Note: Jason Oliver Sr., was born Durant Jason Oliver, while his son is Jason Durant Oliver. Many started referring to the two as Oliver Sr. and Oliver Jr., and for simplicity purposes, they are referred to that way in this article.