Photo by Kyle Parmley.
Hoover High’s Jamie Gregg is back to full health coming off a torn ACL last summer.
If you tuned out during the nine-month period without high school softball, you missed the story of Jamie Gregg.
As a sophomore at Hoover High School, Gregg put together an impressive sophomore campaign, one that netted her a first team all-state honor. The Bucs advanced to the North Central Regional, where their season came to a close in mid-May.
Almost immediately following the school season, many high school players take to the travel ball circuit, including Gregg. However, Gregg would have no such travel ball season to speak of.
During a situation in the first practice of the summer season, Gregg was the runner on first base. After a short fly ball was tracked down by the shortstop, she had to scramble back to first base. She did not have to dive back to the bag, but had to make an evasive move to get back to the base. When she did, her knee popped.
“I was like, ‘Well, that didn’t sound good,’” Gregg said.
Thinking nothing of it, Gregg completed the three-hour practice with the idea that she had simply pulled a hamstring or incurred some other minor injury. But a doctor’s visit told a different story.
“I went to the doctor, and he felt [my knee], and he said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still walking,’” Gregg said.
Her ACL was torn.
Gregg is no stranger to bumps and bruises, but broken bones and smaller nicks were nothing compared to the rehabilitation process she was about to undergo.
“All through playing when I was younger, I would always have broken bones and little things to overcome,” she said. “But this is pretty much the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with.”
So instead of enjoying the summer playing softball, Gregg instead had to endure daily physical therapy.
“I never really knew the value of hard work until I had to go to therapy every day in the summer, and I really didn’t have the choice of doing anything else. That was the only option,” she said.
With the kind of athlete Gregg is — she is also a key player for Hoover’s volleyball team — she excelled through rehabilitation. But there was a major setback in that process that only prolonged matters.
Gregg was forced to undergo a major jaw surgery that not only sidelined her for a month physically, but made tasks such as eating complicated, as her mouth was wired shut.
“Being down for four weeks in December and then trying to get back up — I was really feeling good, close to getting cleared, then boom, jaw surgery,” she said. “It was just really hard to get back from that.”
But she did get back from that, and pushed through the remainder of her recovery. As the season started in late February, she was nearly at full strength, proclaiming she was “ready to go.”
On Feb. 27, she was cleared by her doctor. In a little more than nine months, exceeding 290 days — she kept count — Gregg was ready to resume her role as a lineup mainstay for the Bucs.
She said she had no reservations about returning to her center field position, a position that typically requires fielders to be able to accelerate quickly and cover a large portion of the outfield. Rehab has given her the confidence to go all-out once again.
“I’m going to be stronger and faster than I ever was,” Gregg said. “I’ve never worked this hard at just focusing solely on my body and getting faster and stronger.”
Through her injury, Gregg said she also learned the value of being able to lean on others.
“I did hit that block mentally,” she said. “But all the people that have pushed me told me I have to trust it and keep going. Now I don’t even think about it.”
Gregg praised how her teammates have responded to her throughout the process, as she only began practicing with the team about a week prior to the season.
“They have been patient with me and understanding that I’ve got to basically start over, and they’re always encouraging me,” Gregg said.
That support was never more evident than a moment after practice just a few days before the season started.
“We stayed late for extra reps, and it was the first day I got cleared to start diving for balls,” Gregg said. “I dove in the gap for a ball, and all my teammates came and tackled me. It was great.”
Gregg already has committed to play at Mississippi State following high school. She became anxious about the recruiting process after visiting several and being left unsure of where she wanted to go.
“I went on a lot of college visits,” she said. “They say you get that feeling, and I was thinking maybe I just don’t get that feeling. Then I went to Mississippi State, and it felt at home.”
With her softball future settled, Gregg has no doubt that she wants to play volleyball again in the fall after missing the 2016 season. But for now, she is just happy to be back on the field.
“I kind of can’t believe it’s here after nine months,” she said. “It just never felt like it would get here. Now I want to have fun and just always remember that that’s what it’s all about.”