Can't Keep Me Down
May 11, 2011
From the start of her career in 2007, senior shortstop Heather Mott has battled for her spot in the Tigers' lineup not with competition, but with the mere fate of faulty injuries that continued to follow her.
With life's unexpected accidents it has not been an easy ride, but Mott's perseverance and ability to bounce back from any obstacle thrown her way has been an inspiration to her family and teammates.
Mott has been with the team five of the six years the program has been in existence. Head coach Windy Thees knew before the program was even in existence that she had to have Mott as a part of the new program she was hired to build at the University of Memphis.
Mott started her career as a Tiger in 2007 with high expectations of what she was to achieve in her four years of college ball. She`s played softball since she was five, so this was what she had always dreamed of.
Starting her college career with a bang, Mott was selected to the Easton Tiger Classic All-Tournament Team hosted by then No. 7 LSU, where she had seven hits in six games with six runs scored, eight RBI and four home runs to help Memphis claim second place in the tournament.
But, just as Mott was getting started during her freshman year, she tore her MCL during practice and was lost for the remainder of the season after playing just 10 games. While turning a double play at second during practice, she collided with a teammate who was sliding into the base.
"It was tough," Mott said. "I started my freshman year thinking I wanted so much out of my four years of college. Coming in, I had this vision for college, and to get injured 10 games into your freshman year, it is hard. But, no one is promised a perfect four years."
Despite the rough start to her college career, Mott did not see this as the end of the road, but as a minor bump that, with hard work, she would find herself back on the field. Mott used her first season as a redshirt freshman to grow as a player and most importantly as a teammate. She had to develop a leadership role from the dugout and not just on the field.
"It happens. You have to fight through it and make the best of it," Mott said. "It was a challenge, and I don't regret anything. I look back on it now, and I think if I didn't get hurt, I wouldn't have this year."
With constructive surgery and a team of experts rehabbing her back into playing form, Mott was ready to tackle her second year with the Tigers in 2008, her first full season as a redshirt freshman. With just seven games left in the season, Mott was struck by a pitch in the hand against UCF.
Unable to finish the season with a fractured hand that also caused a blood clot, Thees was worried about Mott.
"These young ladies are my children when they get here so that was very emotional," Thees said. "Especially because she had fought so hard to come back from the knee (injury) and then to not get to be able to play the whole season."
Mott continued to battle her injuries throughout her career, but little did she know there was one last struggle waiting around the corner.
In 2009 during her sophomore year, Mott started in the first 16 games before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery. One throw is all it took for Mott on a cold winter day on the practice turf to find she had thrown out her arm.
"At the time, I was at the lowest point of my career because I had so much stuff happen before," Mott said.
One would believe it was the end of the road for Mott as she had reconstructive surgery in March of 2009 and was unable to finish yet another season with her teammates. But her older sister, Sondra, said it best when speaking of Mott not giving up. "(Quit) is not in the Mott vocabulary," she said.
Mott had a conversation with Thees and promised to give it one last shot to come back and play her remaining two years, and that she did with excellence.
"We knew she was such a hard worker and such a positive person," Thees said. "She has such a supportive family and such strong faith that we knew she would work hard to come back, and she did and it was awesome. (She came back) better than ever."
In 2010, Mott finished her first full season as a junior playing 46 of 51 games, starting 41 of them at shortstop. She finished with an 11-game hitting streak that was then the second best mark in school history only to be surpassed by her 14-game streak this season. While she was not 100 percent, she assumed her leadership role on the team and did what needed to be done to win ballgames.
"She is fighter. She has kept a good attitude, and we are so proud of her," said her father, Doug.
This season, Mott has accomplished so much more going into the Conference USA Tournament this week. She tied the school record with a 14-game hitting streak this season and is heading towards a single-season, record-breaking batting average of .372 and on-base percentage of .456.
"I definitely feel better this year than any of the other four years," Mott said. "Physically, I feel better. I know it is my last year, and I am just playing relaxed. I am out there just having fun. There is no pressure. That was my goal this year--just to have fun and make my senior year the best year yet."
Throughout it all, Mott never once questioned the reasoning's for her injuries, but instead was a witness to those on her team that you can make it through any injury as long as you work hard.
Thees believed in Mott and her courage to keep fighting.
"She would say, `everything happens for a reason,'" Thees said. "'I am going to come back, and it's going to be better. There is something that God is trying to teach me, and I have to learn from this.'"
Mott gives credit to the support she had through it all.
"They have been so supportive, and I am so fortunate to have a family like I do," Mott said. "They are awesome. They have raised me in such a loving household, and I can't say enough about my parents."
Mott's parents and older sister have been the support she needs to make it through. Over the past five years she has been with the Tigers, the Mott family has made the drive from their hometown of Pensacola, Fla., to cheer the team on whether or not their daughter was in the line-up.
"She has been amazing to watch, and I am so proud of her," said her sister, Sondra. "On and off the field, everything that she has accomplished through her five years that she has been here, I couldn't be more proud of."
"We are proud of her," said her father, Doug. "The whole experience for Heather and us has been a real joy. We wouldn't change a thing. Although she got hurt a couple times, we wouldn't change a thing about it."
Looking back, Mott couldn't have imagined finishing her career in softball any different. While she will miss the game she has grown to love, she is ready for the next chapter that lies in front of her.
"I am excited about my next step in life, to get married and move on, but this is definitely going to be difficult to adjust," Mott said. "Softball has been in my life since I was five, so I really don't know what I am going to do without it. I am excited to move on, but it is going to be hard to say goodbye to the game."
In January, Mott will be marrying her high-school sweetheart, Ken Jones, from Pensacola, Fla. From there, she will be pursuing her passion for physical therapy school. After all, she has been through she wants to give back to those who might be going through the same struggles she did and be an inspiration by the personal connection she can have with those patients.
"I have had a lot of rehab time and a lot of hours in the training room, so that made me think that physical therapy would be a great field to go into," Mott said. "I know what it is like to go through an injury. I know what it is like to come back from an injury and get stronger. I think that can help me to motivate my patients in the future."
As a Tiger, Mott has accomplished so much, but as an individual she as accomplished so much more. Thees said she is the image of University of Memphis program and a legacy to those that are to come in the future.
"At the University of Memphis, she is exactly what we want our program to be," Thees said.