Gwyneth Roberts, Journal Star file photoNebraska junior outfielder Taylor Otte hits during a January practice at the Alex Gordon Complex.
Former walk-on Taylor Otte ready to take hold of chance in NU's outfield
Hard work pays off for 2014 WHS alum
Hard work, speed and athleticism have led Taylor Otte to this point.
Now a junior, Otte will likely be Nebraska's starting center fielder when the Husker softball team opens its season Thursday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
But without persistence as a high school senior, Otte wouldn't be getting a chance to showcase her softball skills at the college level, and for the program she always had a fondness for.
"This is where I wanted to go ever since I was little," Otte said recently. "Growing up in Nebraska, your dream is Nebraska, for me, at least."
A one-time walk-on, Otte played limited roles as a freshman and sophomore, and learned under All-America center fielder Kiki Stokes. Now Stokes has graduated, and a moment that's been in the making for almost a year is about to be put in play.
"I thought it would always be (Otte's) junior year that she would get to step to the forefront and really make a name for herself, and here we are," NU coach Rhonda Revelle said. "She's had an opportunity to train behind Kiki for two years, and I told her a year ago at this time, 'You be looking to take over that spot.'"
Otte's path to that spot actually started a year before she stepped foot on the Nebraska campus.
Then a senior at Wahoo High School, Otte sent email after email after email to Revelle, hoping to catch the attention of the Nebraska coach. Otte even recalls including schedules of her games in those notes.
Revelle watched the Super-Stater at the district and state tournaments, as Otte helped lead the Warriors to a Class C state title. An invitation to a Nebraska December hitting camp followed, and changed the course of Otte's softball career, likely extending it. After all, Otte said she "wasn't recruited at all."
"I just remember after the camp, (Revelle) calling me to her office and telling me I was going to be offered to walk on here," Otte said.
"I cried. My dad cried. It was a big deal for us."
Otte said she had to build confidence when she arrived at Nebraska.
"It took me a lot to get to where I am right now, to be honest," she said. "When I first got here I didn't think I deserved to be here, because my story was totally different. I was like, 'I had to ask to be here.' And then when I got here, it was like, 'OK, I can compete with these players that were recruited.'"
Otte proved she could compete at the next level. She appeared in 41 games as a freshman, primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, and then was offered a scholarship before her sophomore season. She played in 44 games in 2016, and made 13 starts, including one in center field.
With Stokes gone, Otte was next in line to make a run as an everyday starter in center field. However, a hip injury suffered against Maryland last year became a bump in the road.
"I remember this so vividly," she said. "I dove in the outfield and I caught a ball and I couldn't get up. That's when I realized, 'This is actually pretty serious.'"
An MRI after the season didn't sound any alarms, but the pain was still there. Then, after Otte got a arthroscope done in June, a labral tear was found. She had surgery and was held out of fall ball.
The injury set her back, but it also motivated her.