You could have learned all you need to know about Jessie Vetter by simply listening to her acceptance speech at the Patty Kazmaier Award ceremony Saturday morning here in Boston.
Her teammates shrieked with joy as Vetter was revealed to be the player of the year in women’s college hockey. The rest of us stood and applauded enthusiastically. For her part, Jessie hugged her family and calmly – or so it appeared – made her way to the stage.
The first thing I remember her doing once she got to the podium was greeting Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner from Princeton and father of the late Patty Kazmaier, a star at Princeton who passed away from a rare blood disease at the age of 28.
Jessie then started to speak. She spent a good deal of time congratulating the other two finalists for the award, including Mercyhurst’s Meghan Agosta, whom Vetter and the Badgers will face on Sunday in the NCAA championship game. She mentioned having attended previous Kazmaier Award banquets and learning about (and appreciating) Patty’s life and contributions.
Vetter then thanked the UW coaches for giving her the opportunity to attend the UW, play hockey and get a great education. At this point, talking more and more about the people closest to her, Jessie began to get pretty choked up. She thanked the teammates she has had at Wisconsin for the past four years, but really couldn’t get beyond that. She started to thank her family, but her emotions got the best of her. By then, of course, she didn’t need to say anything. The moment spoke for her.
Jessie’s award was all about her. It’s an individual award. But her speech and delivery were all about everyone else – the Kazmaier family, her coaches, her teammates, her family. She was gracious and she was graceful.
The Jessie Vetters, Mike Kelleys, Lee Evanses, Joe Thomases and Alando Tuckers of the world have made being a part of UW Athletics worthwhile for me. The student-athletes are why all of us in the athetic department have jobs and when they represent all of us the way Jessie did Saturday morning, it makes you feel good about what you do.