March 25, 2003
Seminole senior Shandra Colzie’s childhood was anything but typical. The Miami, FL native has been surrounded by great athletes her whole life. Her family history reads like a “Who’s Who” of professional and college athletics. From the NFL to the Negro Leagues to Florida State University, the Colzie name has as much athletic history attached to it as any family’s.
Shandra’s grandfather played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League. Her uncle Richard was one of the first African American players to play baseball at Florida State and went on to have a career in the minor leagues. Her uncle Neil played football at Ohio State and then played 13 years in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Raiders and her brother James was a gridiron legend at Florida State.
“It was a blessing being around all of those successful athletes,” recalls Shandra. “It made us (her and twin sister Shundra) want to continue the tradition of going to a Division I school and being successful.
“Both my sister and I have always wanted to come to Florida State and play softball. It is a great feeling and it’s special. Not many people have the kind of family background we are blessed to have.”
With a family so steeped in athletic tradition it seemed that Shandra’s path was predetermined but the senior says that wasn’t the case. There was never any pressure put on her or her sister to be a successful athlete or even to play sports.
“I never felt any pressure,” she said. “Our parents gave us so many opportunities growing up and they didn’t just center on athletics. We danced, went to modeling classes, cheered.
“We weren’t interested in athletics at first, which is hard to believe since we were around it so much. If we never played sports, our family wouldn’t have been unhappy. They gave us the chance to do anything we wanted. Whatever we wanted to do was there for us. The opportunities were there and the choice was ours.”
Even after Shandra made the decision that athletics were for her, her trip to her dream of playing at the school where he brother was a football star was not a simple one. After an All-Star career at Gulliver Prep in Miami, Shandra’s pursuit of her dream carried her to of all places Gainesville and a two-year stint at Santa Fe Community College.
“It is kind of funny because when I first went to Santa Fe I just thought you automatically go on to a Division I school. My parents had to kind of bring me back to reality and tell me nothing is guaranteed. They got through to us that we could make it but we needed to work hard and keep our grades up.
“It was a challenge for me. It wasn’t impossible but you do have to work and there were some very stressful times. I really wanted to make it and I didn’t want my sophomore year to be my last year of softball. Looking back at it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
During those years of playing ball in the most hostile of towns for a kid with dreams of being a Seminole, it was her dream of making it to Tallahassee that often kept Shandra going.
“Getting to Florida State kept me motivated,” said Shandra. “But at worst, I wanted to continue my career somewhere. Florida State was always the first choice but making it to a DI school was the ultimate goal. I wanted to get a degree but FSU was always in my heart.”
The dream started for Shandra on those cool fall Saturdays in Tallahassee when she and Shundra came to Doak Campbell Stadium to see their brother star on some of the great Bobby Bowden coached teams of the mid 90’s.
“We came to watch him play a lot,” said Shandra excitedly. “That was a big reason I wanted to play at Florida State. We (the Colzie family) made every game we could possibly make in Tallahassee and we went to some bowl games. We were in Tallahassee quite a bit.”
With all the great athletes and moments the Colzie family has had on so many different playing fields it was on one of the family’s many trips to Tallahassee that Shandra saw her favorite Colzie athletic moment.
“It had to be turned in by my brother when he was at FSU because I never had a real opportunity to see my uncle play in the NFL. It was definitely James’ interception versus Florida in a game that was tied 33-33. It turned the game around for FSU. That had to be my favorite moment.”
Despite barley being a teenager when Shandra started coming up to Tallahassee to watch her brother play, the city is just like she remembers it. Growing up in a big city like Miami, Shandra was always attracted to the tranquility of Tallahassee.
“Tallahassee is just like I remember. It always seemed like such a peaceful place and it still feels that way to me especially coming from Miami. It is a big difference,” said Shandra. “Miami is so crazy compared to Tallahassee. It is so laid back and quiet here. It is such a contrast. I love Miami but it is nice to get away and experience a different lifestyle.”
The only downside to being in Tallahassee is that Shandra is so far from her loved ones. The Colzies are a very tight knit family and it is hard to describe just how close Shandra is not only to her twin sister but also to her whole family.
“I don’t really trust a lot of people but I completely trust my family. They are important to my life in so many ways. I don’t know where I would be without their support. They are so loving and caring and they are the only people I can turn to,” said Shandra.
That was the same attitude that also isolated her from her teammates during her first season at FSU. As much as she achieved her dream of coming to Florida State, her inaugural season in Garnet and Gold was not only tough on the field but it was hard for her when it came to bonding with her teammates.
“Last year was tough,” remembers Shandra. “It is so weird how quickly things happened and it just became easier for me to open up to my team this year. Brandi (Stuart) has helped me realize that it is OK to talk to people. I realized its OK to open up, to laugh and just have fun.
“I know people have wanted to approach us (Shundra and Shandra) but we don’t look too inviting. That was never our intent. Throughout our lives, it always takes us a while to warm up to people. We aren’t mean people but I think people get that impression. I didn’t know that people on the team really cared about me but they do and I realize that now. That probably opened my eyes more than anything. I feel so much closer to everyone this year. I feel more comfortable.”
Just as Shandra started to accept her team and become more accepted her performance on the field also started to turn around. After hitting just .239 and fielding .727 as a junior, Shandra is blossoming in her final season. The senior’s numbers are up in every category. She is hitting 94 points higher in 2003 (.333), fielding .846, and slugging 87 points higher also. She has already stolen more bases than she did as a junior, she is just seven hits away from matching her total from 2002, one RBI short of her total from last year and she is just two walks short of matching the six free passes she drew as a junior.
“It is a lot of fun this year and I like it that way. I think I put too much pressure on myself last year and there were a lot of adjustments. I put way too much pressure on myself and felt that I had to do everything right. I didn’t allow my ability to carry me. My problems were all mental and all my own,” Shandra recalls.
“This is my last year and I had to adjust my thinking. I just made a decision to go out and play my hardest. I want to go all out and not hold anything back. Being comfortable with my team mates plays a role too.”
No matter what happens as Shandra enters the final stretch run of her softball career, she has already had the chance to live out her dream of playing softball at a Division I school. She even got to do it at the one place she had always dreamed of playing. She also got to go to a College World Series.
“The summer before I came to FSU, I remember watching the World Series,” Shandra remembers. “Shundra and I talked about how great it would feel to go to the World Series. We wondered how it would feel to be there ourselves. Then we got to see first person. In a lot of ways, I still haven’t been able to fully appreciate how amazing that experience was. It was simply awesome.”
And it was just another amazing accomplishment in a long list by Florida State’s first family of athletes.