In 2006, College alumna Jessica Kohut was struck in the face by a 90 mph line drive, severely injuring the former softball standout. The freak injury forced Kohut to endure several surgeries to repair facial fractures and nerve damage, leaving her softball career – and possibly her life – in jeopardy.
It takes a special kind of athlete to turn something like that around, but Kohut did just that, courageously returning to the field and winning the 2007 Honda Inspiration Award.
The former Lions’ pitcher first found out she received the award at the end of the Spring semester.
“My coach called me while I was eating lunch and it just floored me,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that out of every nominee who had been through a hard time, between Division I, II and III athletes, I had gotten this.”
Kohut was presented with the award during a ceremony in New York City on June 24.
“It was an amazing night that I was happy to share with my family and my coach,” she said.
While Kohut now spends her days smiling about her amazing comeback, she can still vividly recall her entire ordeal, from the slow recovery period to her long-awaited return to the pitcher’s mound.
“When I first got injurded, I knew my season was over and it was a hard thing to swallow,” she said. “But honestly, it was hard to think about softball sitting in the hospital while my life was questioned.”
It was seven months before Kohut could return to practice sessions with her team. In Spring 2007, she made the move to first base after another player was sidelined with a season-ending injury. Kohut had to wear a protective face mask throughout the season.
Despite all the hardships, the determined athlete never gave up on her quest to get back on the softball diamond.
“My mentality was more like, ‘I’m going to play as long as I’m physically and emotionally able to,'” she said. “Everyone around me served as an enormous support system. Without their understanding, I would not have been able to recover from my injury and surgery as well as I did.”
While she spent most of 2007 as the Lions’ starting first baseman, Kohut did also fight off the scathing memory of her injury, managing to pitch two innings during the spring season.
“My first inning back was against Haverford (College). It was the last inning and my coach gave me the opportunity to make a comeback to the mound,” Kohut said. “I was so happy to be on the mound. It was a very comfortable feeling. It felt like home.”