Kenneth W. Jacobson was born in Vancouver, Washington on September 19, 1921. Jacobson attended Willamette University and was a member of the Willamette University football team that played against the University of Hawaii in Oahu on December 6, 1941 as part of the Shrine Bowl. The team was stranded in Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7, 1941. Willamette head coach, Spec Keene, volunteered the Willamette contingent to guard the perimeter of the Punahou School in Honolulu for ten days. Unable to fly home, the team remained in Hawaii until December 19, at which time they returned to the mainland aboard the ocean liner SS President Coolidge. While on board, the team bunked in steerage and, in exchange for passage, were assigned as hospital aides attending wounded men until the ship reached San Francisco on Christmas day.