Injuries unable to derail Lady 'Horns' McQueen, who signs with Intermont

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY--Many young men and women have signed collegiate scholarships this spring from our area, but none of them may have a story more amazing than Andrea McQueen.
   The Johnson County standout athlete signed a letter of intent to play college softball at Virginia Intermont on Thursday, but it was a long road to get there.
   McQueen suffered an ACL injury, the second of her career, last November in a basketball game. It looked like her dreams of playing college ball were shattered, but McQueen refused to quit.
   After missing the rest of basketball season, McQueen then got her knee ready for softball. All she did was hit .330 and make the TSWA All Northeast Tennessee Team for Class A/AA.
   Virginia Intermont head coach Jimmy Nelson saw how hard McQueen was willing to work, and then offered her a scholarship.
   "A serious injury like she had, it would be very easy to say 'hey I gave it my best, but I think I'm done with sports," Nelson said. "She worked very hard and proved that she had a big heart. That's one thing you can't coach. You can get them better, you can get them through rehab, but the desire that she showed that she wanted to play ball and she did. "She came through and I think she was a big factor for their team this year.
   "You can't teach desire. You can't coach it. And I think she is going to be a big asset for our team."
   Johnson County head coach Dana Smith also respects McQueen for the way she handled adverse conditions her sophomore and senior seasons.
   "I've never had an athlete work so hard to come back not only once but twice," Smith said. "With everything that has happened to her, it's been an amazing journey for her. It's been such a joy to watch her overcome this and just push and push and push. It's been such a joy to have her for three years."
   The signing is a dream come true for McQueen, who thought this day might not come after that night in November at Happy Valley.
   "It's funny how things work out," McQueen said. "I never thought after that night that I would sign to go play ball anywhere. I chose softball because I love it, and they told me any time I wanted to I could go play basketball. But I'm just excited that I can go play on the collegiate level. I love it so much."
   McQueen mentioned the possibility of playing basketball for the Lady Cobras, but she says it's a remote one at best.
   "I don't know yet," McQueen said. "I won't play my freshman year, but I might get in there and start shooting and miss it really bad. But I don't know, it's really hard in college to play two sports and to keep your grades up. Possibly yeah, but I'll have to make that decision when I come to it."
   Smith didn't give up on McQueen after the injury occurred. When it happened, Smith didn't know for sure that McQueen would recover.
   But after seeing McQueen's desire, Smith knew her star shortstop would be back in the lineup come spring.
   "When I saw her go down, I went down to the stage where she was and my first concern was her," Smith said. "But when she and I talked later on, I didn't really know if we were going to have her or not. I didn't know what we were going to do, because her sophomore year when we did not have a shortstop, that was awful. She was going to push. She told me, I'll be back. She only missed a couple of games.
   "I just wanted her to be healthy. But I honestly thought when I saw her and then I watched within the next couple of weeks, I knew she would be back. But when she got hurt, I wasn't sure."
   As far as McQueen's decision to go to VI, Nelson wanted a player that would work hard and McQueen wanted a coach that was willing to do what it took to win.
   All this made for a perfect combination, as McQueen decided this was the best place for her.
   "He wants players that will work hard and are coachable and that he can teach how to be great ball players at the next level," McQueen said. "He wants a team that will win a lot, and he wants players that want to win. That's what I was looking for in a college, and that's what he was looking for in a player. That's why it was a good fit for me."
   McQueen's most memorable moment in high school sports came this past basketball season against Volunteer on senior night while she was still recovering from the injury. McQueen hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, and received a standing ovation from the Longhorn fans.
   "That was very emotional and it was like I could prevail through anything," she said. "If you work hard enough and come back, you can succeed in whatever. That was such an emotional night, and I will remember it as long as I ever live."
   As McQueen enters a new chapter of her life, she is very grateful to her parents and to her coaches for believing in her throughout all she has been through.
   "I want to thank my parents (Polly and Danny McQueen) for being there for me," she said. "I want to thank Coach Smith and Lisa (Mullins), too."