It's hard to watch a softball game at UT without noticing a certain star player at second base.
Lauren Gibson not only started every game for the Lady Vols last year, but she also batted .314 and had only two fielding errors all year. Her fielding percentage was an incredible .989. This year she has done more of the same with a batting average at .413 and a fielding percentage of .971.
However, Gibson's impact goes far beyond the diamond. Raven Chavanne, Gibson's roommate and senior third baseman, said Gibson's natural, somewhat freakish talent is what makes her so special.
"I mean she is so tiny, but she can hit the snot out of the ball, she's fast and she has a great glove," Chavanne said. "I think she had like one error last year as a middle infielder and that's kind of unheard of. I think she just has that unique presence about her and I feel like that carries onto the field and that's what makes her special."
Co-head coach Ralph Weekly values the unique drive Gibson adds to the team.
"She is just competing 24/7," Weekly said. "No question about it. She's got great softball instincts, great speed, big bat. She's just Lauren. She's very humble. She never is cocky or arrogant or anything like that. She just comes to play every game."
Gibson's drive is found in practicing and competing in a sport she loves. While she always dreamed of playing softball at a high level, she never realized that dream would become a reality until high school.
"I ended playing for a team out of New Jersey, a team in Jersey, and then when the coaches started coming up, my parents started to realize 'actually, she could go to college,'" Gibson said. "I guess that was probably ninth grade or tenth grade. So I guess by then I realized that I really could go to a school that I wanted to."
Weekly said the day Gibson committed to the Lady Vols was a special memory.
"It was one of the best recruiting moments I ever had," Weekly said. "(Co-head coach) Karen (Weekly) and I took her into Neyland Indoor Stadium and we walked up to where the big mural was on the wall after a full day of visiting places and I said 'You know, Lauren, if you come to Tennessee, you're going to be able to see this every Saturday night.' She said, 'What do you mean? I'm coming!' And I said, 'You got to be kidding me.' She said, 'No. I'm coming! I'm committing to you right now!' And I said, 'Gosh, that is amazing,' because she was a great summer ball player."
The decision to come to Tennessee was an easy one for Gibson.
"It was my first visit and I went to a camp here actually for an unofficial visit kind of and I saw the campus," Gibson said. "I'm a real big football girl so I love the football and then I just loved the campus, the coaches and everything. It really made my decision really easy."
While she enjoyed what the university had to offer, Gibson contributed her own talent to the program. Throughout her career at UT, Gibson has received numerous achievements, including All-SEC, All-SEC defensive team and All-America honors. Her greatest achievement through all this has been being named to Team USA.
"Actually, I was at the airport and it was right after camp and Ralph called me right before I got on my plane because I had like a six hour flight home," Gibson said. "So the release was going to be released before I got home. He called me and said, 'I just wanted to let you know before you got on your flight that you made Team USA,' and I just started crying in the middle of the airport. It was kind of embarrassing. It was just so exciting to know that I what I worked so hard for, I finally made my dreams come true."
"She's hitting number three for the U.S. national team, that's pretty special," Ralph Weekly said. "I mean most people in the world would like to be on the U.S. national team, when you figure they only pick 17 players from every softball player in the country and she's hitting in the prime spot, I think that definitely makes her special."
Not only will Gibson go down in the record books as one of the all-time best Lady Vols on the field, she will also be one of the greats off the field.
Gibson shows her true unselfishness by what her favorite accomplishment in her illustrious softball career is. Even though she has played with the best players in the world on Team USA, the moment she cherishes the most is not a home run she hit or an honor she received, but a team achievement that she will always remember.
"It was the SEC tournament when Shelby Burchell hit a home run," Gibson said. "Just to be there and we won the SEC tournament and it was an amazing experience."
If Gibson has one weakness, it is her slight obsession with her favorite soft drink, Dr. Pepper.
"The girl drinks Dr. Pepper like it's water," Chavanne said. "There hasn't been a day that she hasn't had Dr. Pepper. Freshman year, it's like my second day sleeping in the dorm, my mom had just left and I'm all sad, I'm like 'I miss my mom,' and it's like three in the morning and our beds are lofted. All of a sudden I hear her climbing down from her bed. All of a sudden I hear this crumbling sound and I look and she is opening a bag of cookies and then she is drinking a Dr. Pepper. ... The next day I called my mom and said, 'Mom my roommate is so weird.'"
Gibson can certainly see herself being in a Dr. Pepper commercial one day.
"That's my next dream," Gibson said. "Team USA was one and now I got this one. I've always been a really big fan of Dr. Pepper and I obviously tweet about it all the time. All my fans know about it. I'd love to (do a commercial)."