‘Just Do You’ highlights support for FVSU tennis player

September 14, 2011 – Fort Valley State University’s close-knit tennis team, its website and Facebook page make a powerful recruiting engine. When San Antonio, Texas resident James “Nick” Hernandez searched for a college to transfer to and play the sport he enjoys most, he connected with FVSU tennis player Governor Henry Henderson, III through another Lone Star State student. After discussions on Facebook and reviewing the university’s website, Hernandez took another important step. He visited the campus and met tennis coach Willie Foster and team members in person. He decided that transferring to FVSU was the right thing to do; but financial problems almost stymied his plans. That’s when the tennis team stepped in to help. Team members bombarded the coach with calls to help Nick become a Wildcat. “Since I’ve been coaching, that has never happened,” said Foster, a 16-yearFVSU coaching veteran. “We have a unique group of men and women on the team, [who are] serious about academics. The kids liked him when they met him. He’s outgoing and easy to like.”

Vickie Oldham, FVSU marketing and communications director, interviewed FVSU tennis player Nick Hernandez about his life and what drew him to Middle Georgia.

What was it about the university that was of interest?

I love the game of tennis. After searching and looking, I found out the tennis team here was well known and had very good success. (FVSU’s tennis team won three consecutive regular season championships in 2009, 2010, 2011, including a three-way tie for first place. The new season begins in January 2012.) I liked that and the fact that the biology department, my major, was very successful.

You transferred to FVSU. Why?

I transferred because I felt that Fort Valley offered some things that my other school did not. I saw some things I liked on the website; and when I came here to visit, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the people. It has a homey feel. Everyone’s really friendly. It’s kind of like everyone knows everyone, even though they really don’t.

How did your parents feel when you mentioned leaving Texas and coming to Georgia?
I’ve always been really close to my mother. Like any mother, she was worried and not so happy to let her baby go so many miles away. My father’s been with me all my life, but he works hard. My mother took me to my tennis tournaments and PTA meetings. [We] have a really close relationship. For her to see me go for months to a far place and not be able to drive to see me is tough on her.

I was also close to my grandma. She lived with us for 8 years. We’d hang out and she’d share her wisdom with me for hours.

A life changing experience occurred during your campus visit. What happened?

During my visit, my grandma was admitted into the hospital. I was told she was doing better. On the day I was to leave Fort Valley heading home, something drastically changed. My mother called to say my grandma passed away. For me, it was tough. I went through guilt that I was hundreds of miles away having fun while my grandmother was struggling.

Do you feel as if your grandma still guides you?

Yes, I really do. Not many people know but I actually got a tattoo in memory of my grandma a couple of months after her death. It’s over my heart and it has a cross with ribbons. It has her name and the day she died. Now, I feel like I’ll also have her memory with me. I will never forget her.

Your tennis mates did something pretty special to help you. What did they do?

Money has been a struggle for me and my family for a while. That’s one of the many reasons I came to Fort Valley State. I wouldn’t have to pay as much for school as I would at my previous school. My teammates all got together and pitched in some of their scholarship money for tennis to help me get here. For me, that was really true brotherhood they showed. They hardly knew me and only met me a couple of hours at the most. It was really touching that they’d do that for me.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I’m hoping Fort Valley State can help me make it to medical school. I’m studying to become a physical therapist and hopefully make a difference in other people’s lives. I can rehabilitate them to achieve their dreams and goals.

I also feel as if I’m called to be in a position of leadership at Fort Valley State, to build up myself and the Class of 2015 to become leaders, not followers.

At the “Brother-to-Brother” ceremony during orientation week, you shared your story. Why did you feel it was important?
There are many people who are very unique with a special story. Sometimes, as a male, it’s tough to get up in front of a crowd of other males and show that you have weaknesses. They say men need to be strong all the time; and men don’t cry; but sometimes it takes that one person to get up and be bold. I feel it touched other men.

What would you like your mom to know if you could speak to her right now?

I’d like to tell her that I really love her dearly and miss her; and I’m going to try to do everything I can to make her proud of me.

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“Just Do You” is a periodic column that features profiles of FVSU staff, faculty and students. If you’d like to recommend the next JDY feature, contact Vickie Oldham at (478) 825-6319 or oldhamv@fvsu.edu.