Volleyball wins on courts, in hearts, across the country
Nov. 3, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Destinee Hooker's on-court exploits during televised Texas Volleyball matches have earned her the nickname, TV-D.
And they've also earned the second-ranked Longhorns a pair of cross-country fans.
Four years ago, back in her hometown of Summerton, S.C., Donna Martin was at home one afternoon and, since her daughter had recently started playing volleyball, was looking for a match to watch on television.
Martin accidentally landed on a channel featuring the Longhorns, and some fresh-faced freshman named Destinee Hooker. Martin doesn't remember UT's opponent, or even the outcome. She just remembers being blown away.
"I'm just sitting there thinking that this is the most phenomenal athlete I've ever seen," Martin said. "I've been following Texas ever since."
And not in a casual way, either. Martin has a Longhorn silhouette on her car, a Texas Longhorns mouse pad at her desk and a deep-burning love for Texas Volleyball in her heart. She and her husband, Chuck, celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary last week with a trip to Austin, so they could watch the Longhorns play Nebraska live and in color.
They tried to meet up with the Longhorns during the NCAA tournament two years ago in Florida, but the timing didn't work out. Last year didn't work either because one daughter got married and another graduated from college during the postseason.
So, Martin knew exactly what she wanted for this anniversary present.
"Take me to Austin," she told Chuck, "so I can be in Gregory Gym and yell 'Point, Texas.'"
On the plane to Austin last Thursday evening, Chuck asked Donna how she would react if she was able to meet Hooker in person, but Donna said she didn't want to even consider the possibility and then be disappointed if fate didn't allow.
But head coach Jerritt Elliott was too tickled with the reality to let the Martins come and go without something special. After they enjoyed the match from the VIP table along the baseline, Elliott invited both Donna and Chuck for a rare visit inside the team locker room.
Donna walked out with some jerseys, a few autographs and -- of course -- a hug from Hooker.
"I've been so humbled by this experience. We came just to see the match, and I would have been more than happy just for that, but all of this has been so special," Donna said. "I'm really overwhelmed."
And that's the way Elliott wanted it.
"When you are at a school like Texas and you are in the spotlight, sometimes it's nice to be able to give back," Elliott said. "I know it meant a lot to her, but it was also good for our players to see how important they are and how they are role models all over the country.
"And it all came from people watching them on TV."