Texas Star Janae Jefferson Is One Of College Softball's Best
When Texas head coach Mike White pulled Janae Jefferson aside at practice earlier this month, she knew he was going to deliver life-changing news.
The fifth-year senior second baseman was told she was drafted by Athletes Unlimited, and her dreams of playing professional softball came true.
“All my hard work has paid off in the long run,” Jefferson said. “I was really excited about the opportunity and I wanted to experience Athletes Unlimited. I heard a lot of good things about it. It is a dream come true in a way, getting to continue to play softball professionally.”
Throughout her time in college, Jefferson has stopped at nothing to become one of the best players in the country. This season, the Texas native currently ranks ninth in all of NCAA Division I in total hits (72) and 11th in doubles (18). Most recently, she became the all-time career hits leader in Texas program history and the Big 12 Conference with close to 300 for her career.
“Coming in freshman year, I just wanted to get my feet wet. I didn’t even think I would be starting right away,” Jefferson said. “I just wanted to come in and learn from the upperclassmen who were here at the time. When I started my freshmen year, that’s when things started opening up for me and I realized I am pretty good and can make it far.”
It was announced in January that Jefferson would be playing with Team USA this summer, which was another dream of hers. She became the sixth Longhorn to make the national team, preceded by pitching legend Cat Osterman. From the college level, to the international stage, to the professional ranks, it’s nonstop softball for Jefferson, but she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“As a little kid, I always wanted to be on Team USA and I always looked up to Natasha Watley and Caitlin Lowe,” Jefferson said. “It was a no-brainer for me to decide to go play with them. I get to play softball and travel the world at the same time, who doesn’t want to do that?”
Not only does playing for Athletes Unlimited and Team USA mean that Jefferson will get to learn from other great players, but it also means that she will get to gift them with her knowledge as well.
“(Athletes Unlimited) is more player-run than coaches,” Jefferson said. “With that league, there is a lot to learn from veterans who are already there, and being around big names that I grew up watching. Learning from them will be an amazing experience.”
Setting records and hitting the international and professional stages wouldn’t be possible for Jefferson if not for the extensive preparation she dedicates herself to. And for Jefferson, it's just as simple as practicing with her dad in her backyard over the summer break.
“I do a lot of repetition work, working with my dad in the backyard,” Jefferson added. “There is a lot of hard work that goes into my game, and I really make sure I focus on things I do at practice. That’s where I get better. When the game comes around, it’s a lot easier for me because I've been through it at practice.”
The most important part of going out on the field for Jefferson is wearing her heart on her sleeve and leaving a positive mark on the game. She has a goal to add to the fun of softball and increase viewership of the game. She hopes that others see the fire inside of her when they watch her play, especially in the next few months.
“I think I want (viewers) to take away that I am a hard worker and I am out there making cool plays to better the game all together,” Jefferson said. “I want to leave my legacy here and step away from this game and make it better than when I found it. Leaving my mark on this sport is one of my big goals. I hope I can do that throughout my entire career.”