|ESPN.com: Athlete's Life||[Print without images]|
|Senior Chloe Mann, the 2012 SEC player of the year, is leading the Gators with 219 kills this season.|
Make no mistake: Chloe Mann is not a Rhodes scholar. She doesn't have a book deal, hasn't invented the next miracle drug and has no interest in memorizing the Klingon pocket dictionary. She's not a nerd, in any sense of the word.
What she is, however, is unique. A breath of fresh air in an atmosphere often polluted by stereotypers and skeptics. A student-athlete whose intrinsic loyalties to family, hometown and hard work have her on track to succeed just as much off a volleyball court as she has on it.
Mann is a senior middle blocker for the third-ranked Florida Gators volleyball team. On the court, she's one of the most decorated players ever to have donned a Gators jersey. A 2012 AVCA First Team All-America selection and reigning SEC Player of the Year, Mann has sprung the Gators to an 18-2 start as they vie for the only missing achievement in the storied program's history books: a national title.
Regardless of the season's final chapter, Mann has made the most of her time on campus. Already with a bachelor's degree in business administration in her back pocket (completing that degree in just three years), Mann is working on a master's in information systems and operations management. She plans to spin these degrees into a résumé that could allow her to run or manage her own event planning company when she graduates.
This dedication to and passion for academics was programmed in her at an early age. Born to Cameroonian parents who moved to the U.S. partly so Mann's father, Donne, could pursue higher learning, the couple's four children quickly learned the value of education.
"I credit my parents for instilling a mindset not of perfection necessarily but a desire to truly be the best you can be at whatever you do," said Mann, who leads the Gators with 219 kills and is second on the team in blocks with 55.
This has become Mann's mission. And it's immediately evident to anyone who comes in contact with her. Take, for instance, Jeff Reavis, former director of the Gainesville Juniors, Mann's club team during her high school years.
"Her volleyball talent was easy to notice because she was fast and athletic and already 6-2 as a sophomore in high school," Reavis said. "But what was unique about her is that you also noticed her intelligence right away. Sometimes it takes time to notice that in an athlete, but with Chloe, you immediately see that she's a very intelligent girl."
Her intelligence was a key ingredient in her rapid growth into a Division I volleyball player. Mann had first picked up a volleyball just a year before Reavis saw her for the first time in 10th grade. Her main sport was tennis, a spring sport in Florida, and Chloe's mother, Melanie, encouraged her to join a fall sport once she got to high school so she could stay in shape for tennis.
On both her high school and club volleyball teams, Mann became a sponge. Her natural athletic ability blended beautifully with her desire to learn and her willingness to perfect her craft. According to her coaches, she comprehended concepts usually reserved for girls who had been playing the game for years. She was a Ph.D. student in an undergraduate classroom, and major college programs were taking note.
Her rapid ascension to the pinnacle of high school volleyball watch lists earned her a look from her hometown Gators, whose campus was mere miles from where Mann was completing her senior year at Eastside High School. It was there that Mann was a two-sport athlete, active in the student government, involved in Key Club and a member of the National Honor Society with a 4.8 weighted GPA. She would enter college with enough credits to count for nearly two full years of college credit.
"I committed to the University of Florida because I love my hometown so much," said Mann, who had her Eastside jersey retired earlier this year. "It's a small-town feel but with a college-town excitement that makes it seem bigger than it really is. I also liked the idea that my family could come watch me play all the time."
They weren't the only ones. Mann's high school community, including coaches like Reavis, can still witness her accomplishing as much in college as she did in high school. And if the trajectory continues, Mann is well on her way to igniting a successful event planning business.
"We always thought Chloe could make an impact," Reavis said. "Sitting back and watching her play now, you're struck with pride at how she uses her intelligence to give her confidence in anything she does."