Martha Childress is ready to fire up the crowd. The sophomore marketing major will be the celebrity starter to lead more than 80,000 fans in the "Game-Cocks" cheer at Williams-Brice Stadium prior to the kickoff of Saturday's football game between South Carolina and Furman. She's been in front of a Gamecock crowd before, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a South Carolina baseball game last March, and Childress is excited to be on the field on Saturday.
"They're both awesome opportunities that not everybody gets a chance to do," Childress said. "Leading the cheer for the football game might be a little more stressful because everyone's hyped up, and it's the homecoming game. I'm a little more stressed for that. I'm from Greenville so I know a lot of people from Furman since it's in my hometown."
It's been a year since her life changed last October when she was shot and paralyzed after a stray bullet struck her spinal cord while waiting for a taxi in Columbia's Five Points. Childress is successfully moving on with her life, and after taking online courses last year from her parent's home in Simpsonville, she returned to campus as a full-time student in the fall.
"It's weird, but it's nice to be back in Columbia," Childress said. "I definitely missed being around my friends and being here."
"I met quite a few of the baseball players. If I could meet most of the football team; that would be pretty cool."Martha Childress
They 19 year old is a recognizable figure on campus, which can be awkward at times, but she appreciates the support from friends, fellow students, family and her sorority sisters from Zeta Tau Alpha.
"People have been very respectful and they've respected my space," Childress said. "I really appreciate that so I can focus on school work and getting to and from my classes. My really close friends and my family don't treat me differently. They still give me a hard time. They treat me the same, so it's nice to feel that sense of reality."
Childress played softball and golf growing up and she enjoys going to Gamecock athletics events, especially baseball. She recently started an internship in the Athletics Department and is looking forward to attending more Gamecocks sporting events after having already met various South Carolina student-athletes and coaches.
"I definitely want to get to some basketball games and being an intern here, I want to get to all the games that I can," Childress said. "I have been fortunate to have met quite a few players. I met Coach (Steve) Spurrier, which was awesome. I met Dylan Thompson, and I know Coach Chad Holbrook pretty well. I met quite a few of the baseball players. If I could meet most of the football team; that would be pretty cool."
Childress met the baseball team after tossing out the first pitch at Carolina Stadium prior to the game against Furman last March. Unlike some recording artists, who flopped in their attempts to reach home plate with ceremonial first pitches at a professional baseball game, she felt pretty good about her effort.
"It wasn't a '50-cent' throw," Childress said. "I did a pretty good job. I wanted to make sure that I got the ball to home plate. I practiced with my brother, and he told me not to embarrass our family. So he made me go outside with him and practice. It was fun."
Childress is not spending a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror and is enjoying the simple things as she continues what she started at South Carolina.
"I love hand written notes from people," Childress said. "That's something people don't really do a lot any more. I love being outside when the weather is nice with a cup of tea and reading. Everything is sort of calming down, which is what I like. I'm getting back on the path."