Oct. 5, 2004
By: Tamara Metcalfe, Asst. SID
If moments had a way to be measured, the story of the former Jessica van der Linden’s life would tip the scales. It’s so good; it’s almost like a modern day fairytale and people who lived it will remember to tell the story for years to come.
As he watched the softball team play a scrimmage Sunday afternoon, Florida State Associate Athletic Director For Compliance Bob Minnix gazed over a couple seats and saw Jessica’s parents sitting there and cheering on the Seminoles. Minnix, a former football standout at Notre Dame, whispered softly to the person sitting next to him. “Now listen what I’m about to say,” he said while nodding towards the van der Lindens. “Out of all my years as a player or an administrator, Jessica may have been the best athlete I have ever seen. Do you understand what I am saying? That goes for males or females. She could do it all both on and off the field…there may never be another Jessica.”
The softball game Sunday was the final stop for the van der Linden parents as Jessica and her husband of three months, former Seminole standout and current Seattle Seahawks safety, Michael Boulware, had already boarded the plane to head back to Washington.
The weekend was full of jubilation for the entire family as they amassed one last time to celebrate Jessica’s career as a Seminole and to allow others to say congratulations to the most decorated female athlete ever at Florida State. From the softball banquet, to church, to brunches, to speaking engagements–the Boulwares jammed packed their four days in Tallahassee with everything thought possible. However, the main reason for the visit was for Jessica to be honored at halftime last Saturday by USA Softball and Honda for being the national player of the year for the two respective awards.
There, with the sun beating down and over 80,000 fans shouting out thanks and encouragements, four different people stood watching Jessica without saying a word. It was almost as time stood still and the crowd noise was shutout. All eyes were on the warm-hearted softball star with her bright red tank-top on and fashionable sunglasses that covered everything but her famous pearly smile.
On one side was the man she wed on July 3 in California and on the other side of him was her mom and dad. Her father, who helped Jessica perfect her fastball at a young age, had cameras in his arms and made sure not to miss a shot. And then must we not forget her college coach and the person who piloted her dream season, Dr. JoAnne Graf, who stood next to Jessica on the field. After spending 26 years at Florida State, Graf said seconds later that all coaches only wish for moments like this for their athletes.
“It was just an exciting moment and real emotional,” said Graf. “I give such credit to the fans at Florida State because they gave her a great ovation. This is something she’ll remember for the rest of her life. It doesn’t happen often that a person gets to be national player of the year out of the whole entire country. So, this is an exceptional honor for Jessica and Florida State softball. You don’t replace a person like Jessica and she’ll be well missed. She is a lifetime player.”
After Jessica was recognized at halftime, the media requested to visit with her and Michael upstairs in the press box. As the group of almost 20 media members gathered, it was as if no one was around to either Jess or Michael. The two, who wore matching silver necklaces with a portrait of them on the inside, often gazed into one another’s eyes and smiled while the other one answered questions. It was evident that while both had successful sports careers, there was something more to them, something so deep that only Jessica and Michael could understand.
“I have always been real proud of Jessica and I’m so proud to be her husband,” Michael started before Jessica interrupted…
“I’m proud to be your wife, too, Michael,” she said with a big grin.
“And it was good to be back at Florida State and be home and get to see Jessica receive the recognition she deserves. I have to say it was a very proud moment for me watching her out there. It was one of those moments that are hard to describe or put into words.”
For now, Jessica is focusing on being a wife in Seattle and giving back to the sport that offered her so much.
“Seattle is gorgeous and I’m just enjoying living a low-key life and watching Michael’s games. Right now I’m doing pitching instructions in Washington, but if the Olympic team called I definitely wouldn’t mind volunteering. It took about three months for me to get the itch back (for softball after the season) but I got it back.”
“What was it like being out there today,” chimed in a perky newspaper writer. “How does it feel to be back?”
“It was really nice to see the Moore Center completed and then to do everything at halftime this weekend,” said the always humbled Jessica. “It was really overwhelming being on the field. Just being in front of Florida State fans again was a chilling honor. I think Michael and I agree we both just feel so blessed.”
When the second half got underway, Michael went off to visit with friends and to stand on the sidelines while Jess darted for an air-conditioned suite with her proud parents and athletic administrators. As they sat there Jessica stared over the football field and soaked in all the Garnet and Gold as if she knew this day would be one of the defining moments in her career. It would be the final piece to a storied athletic college career and the beginning chapter to her days as a Florida State legend.