Showcasing skills: Senior follows passion, secures spot on Texas A&M softball team

Alanis King

Athletic expertise, academic ability, creativity, and the passion that backs each of these qualities are all things which define a person, molding them into who they are or who they eventually will be. This is especially true for senior Erica Russell, whose athletic passion has turned a life-long dream into a reality on the softball field.

“In any sport you [participate in], you should play it because you love the sport and when you play it, you should play it with a passion and give everything you have,” Erica said. “So when I go out on the field, I’m going to give 120 percent because that’s the passion that I have for softball.”

Erica, who has been on the softball field since the age of five, will now get the opportunity to do what is simply a far-fetched goal for many athletes – to showcase her talent at the collegiate level. As a recruit for Texas A&M University’s softball team, the incoming freshman will not only get to represent her top-choice college in her favorite sport, but she will also have the opportunity to use the lessons she has learned throughout her years of playing softball on a bigger, more recognized stage. One of those lessons in particular, Erica said, is what she has learned about making compromises and sacrifices for the sake of the team.

“[Softball is] basically my whole life, and it’s taught me a lot of life-long lessons,” Erica said. “[One of them being the ability to] use your team. That’s going to go into your job since you need to work as a team for things to work out, so it’s going to help me in the real world.”

That lesson has been a prominent one throughout Erica’s years on the Bryan High softball team, and though Erica will be leaving behind her current teammates to start a new journey as a part of the Texas A&M softball team after this season, the bond she has created with her current team is sure to outlast her years in high school.

“We are very close and we interact really well,” Erica said. “I would not trade my team for anything, because the way we play and the way we bond is unlike any other team.”

During her years at Bryan High, assistant coach Michelle Rios said that Erica has left an impact on her team by being a positive example for her teammates to follow.

“Erica really knows how to lead them through all of the challenges that they’ve had this season, and she’s a big part of why our program is a huge success,” Rios said.

One of Erica’s most fond memories from her time on the Bryan High softball team came during a comeback victory against Consol, in which the team triumphed 15-7 over the Tigers.

“We were losing 7-2 or something like that, and we all came together as one team and pulled out a bunch of runs in the 6th inning,” Erica said. “It was an awesome feeling, just knowing that your team was there for you.”

According to teammate senior Taylor Curtis, Erica plays a significant role in bringing the team together as well.

“Erica is always there for us; she backs us up and makes good plays to first,” Taylor said. “She brings everyone together on the team and makes us one. She lightens the mood in practice and makes it fun, but keeps it serious at the same time.”

Erica began writing recruitment letters and emails at age 14, with Texas A&M never falling from the top of her priority list. Despite Erica’s loyalty to Texas A&M, however, she kept her college options open before her recruitment offer was made at age 16.

“I always had other college [options], but A&M was number one,” Erica said. “I visited a lot of other colleges before [being recruited by] A&M, but when A&M came, I said yes because that’s just where I want to go. That’s the college that I love, and I see no place better than A&M.”

But now that she is certain she will be donned in a maroon uniform on the softball field next year, Erica said that she is determined to do everything in her power to produce for the team and perform well at the collegiate level.

“A&M has been my passion since I was like eight, and now that I finally get to play out a dream, it’s an honor,” Erica said. “I cannot wait to play and be in the uniform, and honestly my goal is that I get to start somewhere on the field. I just want to be on the field, I don’t care where. I just want to play.”

When she does get on the field, though, it won’t be without the pressure to perform to the best of her ability and to try to minimize mistakes.

“I know that I’m going to be nervous about messing up,” Erica said. “But I’m pretty sure the teammates I know and the teammates who are coming in will make that a lot easier for me. I’m just nervous because it’s my first year.”

Aside from the inevitable nervousness and anticipation that comes with playing a sport at the collegiate level, Erica cannot quite describe her feelings towards being able to display her passion on the field alongside fellow Aggie teammates.

“It’s [an] awesome [feeling], and I don’t even have words to describe how I feel when I talk about A&M,” Erica said. “It’s really just amazing.”