A journey that began 20 months ago for Mo Isom ended Friday when the former homecoming queen learned there wasn’t room for her on the LSU football roster.
Isom set out in January 2011 to beat the odds and score points in Tiger Stadium as a walk-on place-kicker, a goal she hoped to achieve this fall after completing her eligibility as a goalkeeper in soccer over the past four years.
The outcome of her pursuit does not diminish the great courage she showed in trying to tackle what seemed to be an impossible dream.
But it’s not hard to see why she fell short.
LSU coach Les Miles could have brought Isom into the fold if he felt like his program needed to create a buzz within the fan base or captivate the national media. He could have trotted her out in the fourth quarter of a blowout victory at home and let the first female player in school history kick a meaningless extra point.
That would have incited a roar from the Tiger Stadium faithful. That would have landed LSU a spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
But Miles is not the coach of some oft-forgotten mid-major starving for attention. He and his program need no gimmicks to generate storylines.
So it really came down to whether Isom’s leg could address an LSU need. Whether it could help the Tigers win.
Could a lifelong soccer player who’d started kicking footballs 11 months before graduating from college give LSU better results than the kickers the Tigers returned from last year’s Southeastern Conference championship team?
If only Isom dreamed of playing football for, say, the Vanderbilt Commodores, whose kickers combined to make only 8 of 14 field goals in 2011 with none longer than 37 yards.
At LSU, Isom might as well have been trying to make the team as a running back or defensive end.
Senior Drew Alleman returns as an All-American candidate in 2012 after connecting on 16 of 18 field goals and 62 of 63 extra points as a junior. He scored every LSU point in last year’s 9-6 win at Alabama.
Sophomore James Hairston is a scholarship recruit from Dallas who enters his second season as the kickoff specialist. Freshman Colby Delahoussaye was all-state at New Iberia before joining LSU as a preferred walk-on.
Give this to Isom: She was never deterred by the long odds.
She hoped she could catch on quickly enough that she’d make the team at a tryout in the spring. When she missed the cut, she narrowed her focus to kicking field goals and extra points (tossing kickoffs aside) and worked alongside Alleman and the other LSU specialists throughout the summer.
That’s just what you would expect of a young woman whose list of obstacles overcome includes an eating disorder, her father’s suicide and a horrific car accident.
In the end, though, Miles had to evaluate Isom like any other would-be walk-on.
He had to make the best decision for his football team. Not the most popular one.