September 22, 2005 - by
A Model Student-Athlete: Gabrielle Rivera



Rivera and the Florida State volleyball team face Maryland (10-0, 1-0 ACC) and Boston College (5-5, 0-1 ACC) Friday and Saturday night.  Fans can log on to to view live scoring. 

Sept. 22, 2005

This week Florida State volleyball player Gabrielle Rivera has led the life of any typical freshman. She is learning to get around the campus at FSU, studying hard, lifting weights and attending volleyball practice.

Next week she could be vying for a spot on the cover of a magazine or walking the runways at a major fashion show.

The 6-foot-3 beauty, in fact, is far from any normal freshman at Florida State.

Rivera on the runway

Since the age of 12 and long before she was a volleyball star in Puerto Rico, Rivera started modeling for high-fashion international magazines and runways. Just like Florida State alumni and famous model Gabrielle Reece, Rivera entered the university this fall already established in the industry.

“It’s really odd,” Rivera, 18, said. “Gabby Reece and I have the same initials, same name, are the same height, obviously we both play volleyball and our roots started at Florida State.”

Even more incredible is the fact that both females are incredible athletes. Reece is a member of Florida State’s Athletic Hall of Fame and while it is a long road ahead, Rivera has the potential to follow the same path. She entered Florida State as one of the most decorated athletes, male or female, in recent years and she was rated as one of the top volleyball recruits in the nation. FSU head coach Todd Kress stated that Rivera “could be one of the best players to go through this program.”

A longtime member of the Puerto Rican Junior National Volleyball team, Rivera participated at the U-20 World Championships in Ankara, Turkey, last July. Even more amazing is the fact that Rivera has represented her country since 2001 and is on the path to qualify for the Puerto Rican senior team.

“I am very proud of my country,” said Rivera, who speaks with a slight accent “and I enjoy competing for Puerto Rico. My goal is to someday play in the Olympics and perhaps bring home a medal.”

The only child of Felix and Gloria Rivera, “Gaby” can thank her father for her tall genes and athleticism. Felix, a now retired professional basketball player and former member of the Puerto Rican National Basketball Team, is 6-foot-10. On the flip side, Rivera gets her academic intelligence from her mother who is a college professor at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón.

“My parents are a great support system and I wish they lived closer to Florida. My mom was able to travel here with me and she really enjoyed her time in Tallahassee. She thought the people were really friendly and she felt comfortable leaving me here. They plan to visit and attend matches as often as possible.”

According to Rivera, times have changed in the world of sports. She has noticed that more athletes take pride in feminism and embrace the fact that the rules for what’s considered ladylike are changing. Rivera, whose trademark hairdo in games is a ponytail with brightly-colored hair ties attached all the way down, finds height beautiful and loves the fact that she stands taller than most males. Her advice for tall women is to stand straight because there is nothing more attractive than a female who is proud of her God-given physique.

Rivera in her FSU uniform

And while she has become popular with students around campus and the media for her modeling accomplishments, Rivera is the first to admit that she wants to be known simply as a Florida State volleyball player.

“I don’t like to talk about modeling to people because I get really embarrassed. I have only been in school for about a month and already people come up to me and ask me questions. Just the other day one of the local television stations asked me to do a runway walk like I do in fashion shows for a feature story on me and I was so embarrassed. It was right in front of my teammates and they all had a good laugh. It was pretty funny to see me in my volleyball workout gear trying to do a strut on the court.”

Rivera, who became noticeably shy when talking about modeling during this interview, has many athletic goals while at Florida State. So much so that she understands she may have to put on muscle and weight that might be shunned by modeling agents. For a person like Rivera who often models bathing suits and wedding gowns, what may seem ultra-thin to the average eye is often too much for agencies.

“During volleyball I have to eat well and keep my weight up,” said Rivera. “It is hard because it’s human to think I might be hurting my modeling career if I gain too much weight. But for now I am a simply a student-athlete at Florida State and my focus is on volleyball. If my size isn’t good enough for agencies then that is fine.”

For now, Rivera pulls up her socks to cover the legs that made her famous and slides on her knee pads. As she slips on her tennis shoes and ties the laces, her almond-colored hair hangs down her shoulder and nearly touches the floor. Even in her most normal moments, she looks stunning. Then up she goes, racing off to the court with the rest of her teammates to get ready for another day of practice just like any average student-athlete.

By Tamara Metcalfe

Asst. Sports Information Director


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