SPOTLIGHT

Changing the Narrative’s “King/Queen of the Month” is a new feature that spotlights players around the country who are serving as Kings/Queens in their everyday lives. We want to celebrate the ways that student athletes are Changing the Narrative in their schools, on their teams, and in their communities.

Maddy Vermejan
School: Southern Illinois University
Sport: Softball
Position: Infield
Number: 27
Hometown: Lemont, Illinois

NOVEMBER 2018

MADDY VERMEJAN

1. Tell me about your childhood and what life was like growing up.

My parents provided my sisters and I with a stable home life. We were always together no matter what we did: movie nights, dinners, game nights, and athletics. Our family is very tight knit and I am grateful for that. I enjoy the simple pleasures of staying home and spending time with my family.  I love it. I have two older sisters.  My eldest is 23 and the other is 22.  We are all 18 months apart.  My sisters were my best friends growing up and continue to be.  We have always been super close and have a special bond that will never be broken. I have 19 first cousins, nine of which come from my mom’s side and all live in my home town. Growing up with them was memorable, as we were not only cousins, but we were true companions.  We continue looking forward to spending holidays and family events together.  I feel blessed to have strong family relationships that continue to get stronger as life goes on.

2. When did you realize that you had college softball in your future?

I’ve been playing softball my whole life but I realized a college career was possible probably starting around the end of 8th grade, beginning of freshman year in high school. That’s when all the recruiting started for me. To be honest I think that was the most stressful part of my life, the toughest decision by far but for sure the best one that I’ve made. From all the college camps, showcases, tournaments, and combined hours on the phone with different college coaches it finally all paid off when I committed to SIU.

3. What was it like when you committed to SIU and realized that dream was going to come true?

Once I committed to SIU all the weight was taken off my shoulders. All the hard work and dedication paid off but I knew I couldn’t stop now. It made me want to work even harder and become the best one out on the field. At first I didn’t really realize how big of an accomplishment it was to be committed to a D1 university, I just thought it was normal and sort of laid low, did my own thing. I was really excited to start the next chapter in my life, I still remember the day I committed. It was a Monday night, I was sitting on the edge of my parents bed, shaking because I was so nervous but so excited at the same time. I called and said “hi coach I have some good news, SIU is where I want to be and I’d like to say I’m committing”. Kerri was super excited so we talked for a bit and when I hung up the phone I burst into tears and hugged my mom realizing that all the nights of not being able to sleep and not knowing to correct decision were over. My dreams were slowly but surely turning into reality.

4. How has the Changing the Narrative message impacted your life?

Changing the Narrative has impacted my life in many ways. I couldn’t stop talking to my mom about how great the stories and lessons were. It taught me to realize that I should have standards and be the best version of myself at all times. I shouldn’t care what other people are thinking about me, and to “straightened your crown”, find your true self, and stand up for what you and others believe in.

5. Give me your definition of what a Queen is.

In my mind a queen and a strong woman who has standards and believes in herself at all costs. Someone who wants to be the best for herself and others, who enjoys motivating others and giving back. 

6. Describe a time in your life when you’ve had to step up and be a Queen.

One moment that still sticks with me was when I was in 8th grade. Graduation caps were banned because the grade before me threw them sort of like a frisbee and they were hitting people in the face. We were told we were not going to be able to wear graduation caps just gowns. For an assignment in my English class, I had to write a persuasive essay and my topic was to get graduation caps back, my audience was the school board. Long story short my teacher gave me the idea to bring my paper to the board of education and we ended up getting to walk across the stage that spring with caps. This was me stepping up and fighting for what I believed in, even if it meant talking to people of higher power. I wanted them to realize what they were taking away from us and that’s exactly what happened.

7. Tell me about a Queen in your life. How have they impacted you? Are there coaches in your life that have been Queens?

For queens in my life I would have to mention all my coaches, starting with Kathy Young “Coach Prince” who coached me when I was 15 & 16 at the Bulls/Sox Academy, Jen Tyrell “JT” who coached me when I was 17 & 18 on the Beverly Bandits, and lastly my current coaches at SIU, Kerri Blaylock and Jen Sewell. These 4 coaches all taught me different things about life and showed me how to be a queen back when I didn’t even know what a queen meant. Kathy Young was a huge motivator, she pushed me to be the best and to always hustle and communicate while out on the field. Fundamentally, she taught me everything I know about the game of softball, from glove work to swinging the bat. She was my first hitting coach and first travel ball coach so I give her so much credit, without her I would not be the player I am today. Jen Tyrell, she was loud, always moving, and had to highest energy out of all the coaches in the park. She believed in our team like no other and always pushed us to be the best and make it to the top. She made the game fun but at the same time held very high standards for us, which we all knew we had to grind to get there. Both years I played for JT we placed 7th in nationals. Finally, my current coaches Kerri Blaylock and Jen Sewell. Kerri’s someone who teaches us that the little things in life and in the game of softball are the things that will make us champions and strong individuals down the road. She wants the best for our team and coaches us to be just that. She is constantly helping us realize what we are all capable of doing, which pushes us even harder. Jen Sewell, the warrior who fights her own battles everyday but makes our team her priority. The warrior in her motivates all of us to keep grinding and to always give it our all no matter the situation. She teaches us to never give up and fight without excuses. All my coaches are queens. They are motivators, fighters, people who hold high standards for themselves and their teams, and will, no doubt, go the extra mile to help their team succeed. They not only developed me to be the player I am today but showed me how to be a strong women outside of the game. 

8. If you could start your own foundation, what would it be centered around and why?

If I were to start a foundation I think it would be centered around individuals with intellectual disabilities. To help them succeed in the work place and find them a job they are passionate about. Give them opportunities that everyone else is able to pursue on their own.

Mitchell Malot
School: Southern Oregon University
Sport: Football
Position: Offensive Lineman
Number: 55
Hometown: Central Point, Oregon
Major: Business
Twitter:  @Che55Che

OCTOBER 2018

MITCHELL MALOT

1. Tell me about your childhood and what life was like growing up.

Family was definitely and is a big part of my life. I was raised in a full house with mom, dad, and twin sisters Mallory and Madison. Family was always a big part of us. We’ve lived in the same house since I was born, we never moved. It was where my dad was from originally, Central Point, Oregon. What was cool is that my parents made sure that everyone knew that our house was the safe place to go, so that made growing up pretty easy because we knew we had a safe area. Growing up, I played every sport available to me. It was pretty cool to be able to travel. My parents would travel with me to a lot of different places and states to play games for baseball, football, and basketball.

2. When did you realize that you had college football in your future?

I think it was pretty early on, I would say middle school football, maybe high school football. It was kind of like I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. My dad played college football and so I always wanted to be like him and I knew if I worked hard and listened to my coaches, that I would have a chance to play.

3. What was it like when you committed to SOU and realized that dream was going to come true?

It was pretty awesome because I originally went to junior college in Weed, California at College of the Siskiyous. When I had the opportunity to come back home to my hometown and my home college, it was a pretty humbling experience for me because I get to play college football, the sport I love, in my backyard and have all my friends and family there so it was a pretty humbling experience. My parents’ house is 30 minutes from the college.

4. How has the Changing the Narrative message impacted your life?

Changing the Narrative has impacted me in a couple different ways. The first is that I didn’t really know much about the situation that Changing the Narrative talks about and so it was great to hear all of the information but also it hit me personally because I do have twin sisters that are a couple years older than me, so thinking about their experiences and stuff that could’ve or maybe honestly happened to them, it hit me personally because I knew that the stage and platform that we have as student-athletes, we can make a difference and it was just more of a personal thing for me because of thinking about my sisters and friends that are girls and my mom. As a student-athlete, you’re more than a norma, average college student. People know I’m on the football team. People in the community know that I’m on the football team, so it’s a great platform to share a message.

5. Give me your definition of what a King is.

My definition of being a king is someone that uses his knowledge and his awareness to share that with others. Someone that is not only in it for fame or publicity, they’re in it to make a difference and it’s not just when you’re in front of someone, it’s the stuff you do behind closed doors when no one’s looking and I think that’s my biggest thing. What are you doing when nobody’s looking? You can be a king in front of people or on the internet, but what are you doing when no one’s looking and you’re alone? Are you still a king by yourself?

6. Describe a time in your life when you’ve had to step up and be a King.

It was in junior college at College of the Siskiyous at our local bowling alley. There’s not a lot to do in Weed, California, so we would go bowling every Tuesday night. It was somebody that I knew went to school at College of the Siskiyous, but they weren’t in our friend group. I overheard them talking about a situation that to me didn’t feel comfortable and made me feel uncomfortable as a person and so I went over and voiced my opinion to them and they realized and we kind of talked about it, that it probably wasn’t the smartest thing for them to do and that in that sense they needed to apologize to that person.

7. Tell me about a King in your life. How have they impacted you?

Absolutely has to be my dad, hands down. He’s definitely instilled in us that hard work and determination is the thing that will get you to where you need to be and he always said to us, “treat others how you want to be treated” and he gave us multiple examples of him opening doors for people then I learned to do that, always treating women with respect like my mom and my sisters and other people. I got to see him work with people face to face a lot because he’s in construction, a general contractor, so he did a lot of face to face with people so I got to learn how to be able to express myself to people and talk to them with respect. So, definitely my dad.

8. Are there coaches in your life that have been Kings?

The first one that comes to mind is definitely Coach Roche at College of the Siskiyous. He definitely showed us how to be a King. We were coming from high school and it’s our first step in college and he made it pretty clear in his expectations. He allowed us to come to him and talk to him and be able to express ourselves and our needs and stuff like that. Also, my offensive line coach there, Coach Frizz, Tim Frisbie. He’s a great guy and at first he’s pretty tough on you, but once you find trust and he finds trust in you, he’s able to open doors for you. They’re both like father figures without being at home.

Especially in a small college, you were close with them. And then, I think now that I’m at SOU, it honestly could be any of our coaches. Coach Hall, Coach O, Chin, Fozz, the entire coaching staff demonstrates being a King day in and day out. They always instilled that in us and they teach us what’s right. Coach O, our offensive line coach, his big thing is that he’s trying to teach us not only to be really good at football and learn and master our craft at football, but be good men in the future. His big thing is that it’s not a four year commitment to SOU and our team, its a forty year commitment. Our coaches here at SOU definitely have taught us how to be a better man, not only on the field, but off the field.

9. If you could start your own foundation, what would it be centered around and why?

I really want to help kids. I think that if I could start my own foundation, it would be centered around kids. Not only mentoring kids, but it would be with sports, school, outside health, and how to be well rounded. Instead of a sports camp, it would be more like something we have local called Kids Unlimited. Its sports and school and after school program. I would want to do something like that and get it to different locations, like Portland, bigger venues.

Gwyn Jones
School: Auburn University
Sport: Volleyball
Number: 10
Hometown: Greenville, IN
Major: Business

2016 SEC All-Freshman team
2016-17 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll

SEPTEMBER 2018

GWYN JONES

1. Tell me about your childhood and what life was like growing up.

I was raised on a farm in Greenville, IN, which is right across the river from Louisville, KY. My parents were both division one athletes and are the greatest role models in my life. My mom was a senior executive in Louisville, and my dad sold his business to stay home with my brother and me and ran our farm in Indiana. We have about 200 goats on our farm and 15 head of cattle. My dad taught us the value of hard work through long days working on the farm and summers full of 4H. My mom inspired my passion for business and taught me how to find my voice and become a strong woman. When my brother and I come home for breaks from college, my dad still puts us to work on the farm- he says it “builds character”, and I can’t say that I disagree.

2. When did you realize that you had college volleyball in your future?

I come from a volleyball family, so I can’t remember a time I wasn’t set on playing in college, I was just constantly thinking “how am I going to get there?” My mom and aunt played at the University of Kentucky, and my Aunt went on to be the head coach first at Wake Forest and then the University of Georgia. Needless to say, SEC volleyball is in my blood. However, my family never pushed me to choose volleyball; they just wanted me to be happy which is what made the sport even more fun. I’m lucky that I started volleyball at a young age and have a great support system to help me get to where I am.

3. What was it like when you committed to Auburn and that dream became a reality?

Any collegiate athlete will tell you, the recruiting process is overwhelming, but also very exciting. I committed when I was 15.  Since both of my parents experienced being a collegiate athlete, they helped me consider what would be important in choosing a university and program.  made sure that I figured out what I wanted in a school.  They let me visit a lot of schools and made time to be a part of the process.  That way, they could help me think through the opportunities. When I finally committed, I was so full of pride because I knew that I had made the right decision for the right reasons. It really does take a village, and being able to make a decision that made my family, my friends, and my coaches proud, was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

4. How has the Changing the Narrative message impacted you?

I met the leader of the Changing the Narrative movement, Rachel Baribeau, at the joint SEC leadership meeting this summer. For a while my peers and I had been getting agitated by the stereotypes surrounding athletes, but we didn’t know where to turn. As the saying goes, “a few bad apples ruin the bunch”.  If a few athletes don’t make the right decisions, we all can get labeled with negative stereotypes. This is why I loved what Rachel said. Her understanding of student athletes, challenges they can face, mistakes they can make, and how it can impact them, resonated with the room.  She had strong convictions about how to make the student athlete experience positive, and her vision was inspiring.  She talked about holding our fellow athletes accountable and stepping in to be Kings and Queens in order to help get rid of those stereotypes. I honestly felt like every leader at the conference was going to go back and spread the message on their campus, and it gave me a lot of hope.

5. What is your definition of a Queen?

To me, a queen is a woman with strong integrity and character who does the right thing even when it is not easy or no one is looking. Queens use their voices for good and stand up for others.

6. Describe a time in your life when you've had to step up and be a Queen.

I had a friend who told me she was thinking about suicide. I talked to her about it and encouraged her to talk to her family or her therapist. I realized that for her safety, I needed to take matters into my own hands and call her therapist. I talked to her therapist and explained everything I knew. It was a really difficult conversation to have, but I didn’t ever question if it was the right thing to do. My friend was appreciative that I took her health seriously and got her help. I think that’s a big part of being a Queen, stepping up and having those difficult conversations and handling tough situations when needed.

7. Tell me about a Queen in your life. How have they impacted you?

My mom is the ultimate Queen in my life. She has been in the same shoes I’m in right now, as an SEC student-athlete, which is one of the reasons why I value her guidance so much. She’s tough but fair—she’s the kind of mom that lets you cry on her shoulder but then says, “Okay, now what are we going to do to make this situation better?” She’s genuine, kind, and has incredible integrity and character. Every year starting when I was about seven, she made my brother and me research charities around us and choose a few.  Then we would go to the charities, meet with the organization’s leader, and hear about the organization’s mission.  We had to look them in the eye, shake their hands, and give them a donation. That sparked a passion in me for giving back to others, and it’s something I hope to do with my kids one day. A lot of the time, strong women are stereotyped as “cold”, “rude”, or “aggressive”.  She is the perfect example that you can be a strong woman with a strong voice, but also be down to earth and have a huge heart for others.

8. Are there any coaches in your life that have been Queens?

I think one stereotype that female athletes are trying to change the narrative on, is the idea that there’s a lot of drama within female sports teams. One of my club coaches, Melissa Starck-Bean, was a Queen in this movement. She believes in women lifting each other up and supporting one another. She taught us from a young age, that we had to lift each other up to become strong women. She explained that being competitive and holding each other accountable were good things, but that drama would not be tolerated on her team. That’s a lesson that sticks with me, and it’s something I try to do in every walk of life. Melissa has developed countless collegiate volleyball players, and I believe that her messages of accountability, respect, and support of one another have made an impact on a ton of programs throughout the country.

9. If you could start your own foundation, what would it be focused on and why?

I consider myself so lucky to have found a passion in volleyball at such a young age. I found this because I had a strong support system who was able to drive me to and from practices, attend games, and pay for my club and high school volleyball. I understand that not all kids find their passion, because they do not have the same kind of support that I had. This is why if I could start a foundation, it would be focused on helping children find and develop their passion. I would want it to be an afterschool program in order to keep kids out of trouble and focused on something they can put positive energy into. Children could try different sports, arts, and technical skills until they find what truly excites them. I really hope that one day I can look back on this dream and be able to say that I’ve made this foundation a reality.

Bradley Bozeman
Current Team: Baltimore Ravens
Number: 77
Rookie Year 2018-19

School: University of Alabama
Sport: Football
Position: Center
Number: 75
Hometown: Roanoke, Alabama
Major: Kinesiology
Twitter:  @BSBoze
Instagram: @BSBoze

AUGUST 2018

BRADLEY BOZEMAN

1. Tell me about your childhood and what life was like growing up.

I grew up with a great family: mom, dad, brother which is seven years older than me so I always had the big brother that I had to send off. One grandmother that was really close with me. I’m 6’5”, 320 pounds, but I wasn’t always built like I am now. I was a short, fat, chubby kid and I was an easy target to get picked on so that’s kind of where I connect with my charitable stuff that I do and my foundation that I have.

2. When did you realize that you had college football in your future?

Ever since I was a little kid I loved football. I loved playing, I loved everything about it. It was always my dream, I always told my mom and dad and my dad’s friends that I’m going to play for the University of Alabama and it was always a dream of mine but when I really realized it was probably after my sophomore year of high school. I got my first offer from Auburn University so that’s where it really hit home like wow I got my first D1 offer where I can actually get to the big stage and not just a smaller school.

3. What was it like when you committed to Alabama and realized that dream was going to come true?

It was amazing. I was at an Alabama football camp and my parents weren’t coming until Tuesday or Wednesday of the camp just to pick me up from Tuscaloosa and all of a sudden I’m at practice on Monday and my parents are there and I’m like, “what are y’all doing here? Y’all aren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow.” Turns out the coaches called my parents and told them they were going to offer me a scholarship and they wanted to be there for when it all happened so they came down and I found out and they offered me on Monday. I told coach I really needed to think about it and pray about it and on Wednesday I was sitting in Bryant-Denny where the final practice was and I was sitting to the side because I hurt my knee that practice and I was looking around and thought, “this is the place for me. This is where I belong,” and it was like God was telling me that’s where I belong and I committed that day. This overwhelming rejoice came over me and I called my dad down from the stands and told him I was going to commit. It was a great moment, I was extremely proud of myself and I felt accomplished for them.

4. How has the Changing the Narrative message impacted your life?

Rachel and I are very close and she interviewed me in high school then later on came to Alabama and gave her speech and we talked. I’ve interacted with her multiple times and I told her if she ever needed anything to give me a call and I’d love to help out and one day she did. She wanted me to come down to Pell City with her, there was a kid getting picked on really badly. She wanted me to make a video and I said “let’s do something better, let’s go down there and talk to the kids that are bullying the girl.” So we went down there and after that it really sparked everything for me. It just felt like it was a greater calling for me and I hit 20-25 schools in the month of April right before I got drafted. It was an amazing experience to go out and be with these kids and listen to their problems and what’s going on in their lives and coping with the real world and how people are.

5. Give me your definition of what a King is.

Someone that knows his place and how to bring better to others rather than just themselves. There are a lot of people in my position that go out and do things for the wrong reasons. To me that’s not being the type of person or man that we’re supposed to be. Someone that’s just doing it for a facelift or publicity stunt. Something you do, you should be invested in. You shouldn’t have to do anything. Mine is being full hearted and bringing better to others, whether it betters yourself or not.

6. Describe a time in your life when you’ve had to step up and be a King.

The one that really comes to mind is starting my anti-bullying campaign. I went and did the first one and had no intentions of that turning into anything and it just kind of resonated with me. I was in a busy point in my life with the draft coming up and just finishing up pro day and waiting on coaches and different stuff to come through, but just taking that step, it took away from some of my time that I could’ve been doing whatever, but it felt good and made me feel good about myself. I knew I was doing the right thing.

7. Tell me about a King in your life. How have they impacted you?

My father. Hands down. My dad worked his way up from the bottom. He grew up with three brothers and one sister. He didn’t have the best home life. They made it through but he was from one of the poorer parts of my home town. He’s grown his business into something that was profitable for his kids and his family to put me in a good situation where I am today and make me comfortable living. I grew up very comfortably, I’m not going to hide that at all, but it was because of his hard work that I was able to live comfortably. He taught me the values of hard work and commitment, being charismatic and treating people with kindness and respect and being humble. He taught me all of those things. I am myself today because of him.

8. Are there coaches in your life that have been Kings?

There’s two for me that really stick out. My high school coach, Mike Battles. He’s one of those guys that really stuck with me and pushed me forwards, kept me humble, and would help you in the blink of an eye. I’m still extremely close with him today. Also my o-line coach at University of Alabama, Brent Key, he was the same way. He pushed me, he was always on me, he invested time in me and showed me respect. He gave me the tools I needed to be a successful football player. He’s the same way, he’ll help anyone in the drop of a hat no matter race, religion, or what it is, he’s there.

9. What is the status of your anti-bullying campaign?

The paperwork is being processed as we speak. It’s soon to be and up in coming right now. We’re going to start it up here in Maryland, in the Baltimore area and see where it goes from there.

Javon Patterson
School: Ole Miss
Sport: Football
Position: Offensive Lineman
Number: 79
Hometown: Petal, MS
Major: Management Information Systems
Twitter:  @JPatterson__8
Instagram: @jpatterson__79

JUNE/JULY 2018

JAVON PATTERSON

1. Tell me about your childhood and what life was like growing up.

Growing up, I was raised by my mother. She was single at the time and it was me, her, and my brother and my grandmother lived next door. We kind of had a little triangle going on. As a kid, I was always the guy that was loving, caring, and wanted to do the right thing. I tried to be the best I could be at things. That’s kind of one of the things my mother instilled in me at a young age. Seeing my brother grow up and play football in high school and get a job really showed me a lot and I’m very thankful for that. It really made me the man I am today, a hardworking person and try to do things the right way. Everybody’s not perfect but just the person that’s trying to do the right thing.

2. When did you realize that you had college football in your future?

Probably around my 8th grade year in middle school. I had a good year there and then I had spring training coming up and one of my coaches told me, “hey we’re going to have you move up and play varsity ball.” At the time I was stubborn and wanted to be a defensive player but he told me, “your best shot is to be an offensive lineman to play varsity and start as a freshman.” So I thought, whatever I need to do to play so I started learning that role. Coach Steve Buckley was a great mentor for me, he coached at the college level and he’s at a junior college right now so he was pretty right about that, every year I started and had a chance to get college offers so I thank him for that and it’s been great so far. 

3. What was it like when you committed to Ole Miss and realized that dream was going to come true?

It was a great feeling. Being highly recruited as a player out of high school, I was level headed and wanted to do things the right way so I wasn’t big on the hype and all that, but once I chose a school it was a great relief. I felt like Ole Miss was home just like my hometown. The feeling and atmosphere around Oxford really pulled me in and Ole Miss has been true to their values. The people around you, or the people you meet everyday, even when you’re out of town and you see an Ole Miss person, it feels like you’ve known them for years.  

4. How has Rachel’s message impacted your life?

It just shows us that there’s so much more to being an athlete. We hold so much more of a higher standard. People always talk about platforms but some athletes don’t understand that we have a huge platform that people look up to. Some people outside of student athletes think it’s okay what some of us do and it’s not. We have to try and change that stereotype of our athletes because it’s been such a known thing that “student athletes are doing this or student athletes are doing that” and that’s not what you want. 

5. Describe a time in your life when you’ve had to step up and be a King.

I don’t have one I can immediately think of, but just trying to mentor young men about relationships and things of that nature. I was in a relationship and just got out of one. Being a mentor where you can latch on and guide people through.

6. Give me your definition of what a King is.

Someone who uses their platform to change the culture around them and the people around them to make them better.

7. Tell me about a King in your life. How have they impacted you? Are there coaches in your life that have been Kings?

It’s probably actually one of my friends, you actually know him, Jacob Feeley. We met in college and he’s really latched on and been a mentor for me since he’s been out. He’s a very intellectual figure and thinks outside the box. Then a coach would probably be a guy named Todd Pinkston. He was an NFL player and coached me in high school. He’s been kind of a mentor for me through high school and college.

8. If you could start your own foundation, what would it be centered around and why?

I really want to help kids, have a thing where kids are able to play and they can be mentored. Not like a kids camp, I mean it can be a kids camp but as far as like growing up. Kind of like the boys and girls club where they can come be mentored and not do schoolwork. As they grow up, they can come back and teach the young ones what they’ve learned. It’s one of those things like what I told you about changing the culture, you want to be able to change the culture and allow people to pass that mission down. Maybe it’s better or what they’ve learned before, but you want to make sure you’re able to keep that culture going at a longer rate. 

Changing The Narrative, Inc is a 501c3 charity and your donations are tax deductible. Thank you for helping us change the narrative in our schools and work environments.