Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pepper Gay Steps Into Justin's World

Yesterday, we caught up with Pepper Gay to find out what she's been up to in the year and a half since her playing career ended. Today, we're going to take you more in-depth with her, as she shares and answers questions about a variety of topic all surrounding her career.

Allowing the Where Are They Now article to serve as an introduction, we're going to get right to my conversation with Pepper where she talks about several different things, including

- What factors led to her becoming an Illini
- The accolade she's most proud of
- Her sister, also a former D1 player
- Three things she'd take to a deserted island (of course)
- and MORE

How did you get your start playing softball?
I was put on a tee-ball team when I was five. My parents always joked that they did not think I had a future in the sport because I would always lie down in the outfield and pick the dandelions while the game was going on!

Why Illinois? What were the biggest “culture shocks” and adjustments you had to make moving from Georgia to chilly Illinois?
I chose Illinois because I loved the campus, the tradition of the University, and also the coaches.  When I visited for the first time, I felt very welcomed and knew that this was what I was looking for in a college.  I could play in a top conference, and also receive a great education.  The weather was an adjustment and my academic counselor at the time always laughs recalling me showing up in winter boots and a coat in the beginning of October. 

The Illini website calls you one the school’s “greatest pitchers of all time”. With a moniker like that attached to your name, how do you hope your legacy is remembered, both at your alma mater and in the game of softball as a whole?
It really is such an honor to be recognized.  I want to be remembered as a hard worker and a competitor who always liked to face a challenge.

If you could go back in time and relive or redo a single moment from your career, what would it be?
If I could relive a single moment from my career, it would be the game where I broke the school’s all-time strikeout record.  I was not aware of it at the time and it is one of my proudest accomplishments.

With a number of accolades and school records under your name, is there a single award or record that you are most proud of for a particular reason?
The award that I am most proud of is the Illini Female Newcomer of the Year.  The University names a freshman female athlete to be the recipient of this award.  The transition to college ball is challenging because the level of competition is so high. It is very rewarding that my play was acknowledged out of all the freshmen athletes at the University.

Finish this sentence: If not for softball, I would have loved to have traveled to another country and studied abroad in college!

Was softball always your only sport, or did you play others while growing up?
I competed in triathlons until I was 13.  I really enjoyed them because, even though you might be competing against other people, it really is a competition within yourself.  During the long bike rides and runs, it becomes a mental game to keep going even if your body is tired and wants to quit. I also swam competitively until I went to high school.  I needed to focus on one sport and I did not have time to train for both swimming and softball.

Your sister also played collegiate softball, for Elon University. Did having a role model like that to look up to help you as you began and continued your own career?
Softball in Georgia was becoming more popular when my sister was in high school.  She did not play on a travel team until then, whereas I was playing travel ball at the age of ten.  I remember watching her practice every day and going to her games when I was younger, and I saw how much time and dedication she gave to the sport to get to the college level. 

Say you were stranded on a deserted island, and could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?
I would bring a picture of my family, since family is the most important to me.  I would also bring chapstick and a bottle of ranch dressing!

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