A League of Their Own
Excellence in Sports Translates to Success in Law School
Alex Hegner (B.S. ’16, J.D. ’18) and Monique Mead (J.D. ’18) do not have to invent resolve or tenacity within themselves to help them meet the challenge of pursuing a law degree at Georgia State.
There is something about pitching in the eighth inning of a one-run baseball game, or having a 50-mile per hour “hit” coming at your face in an NCAA volleyball match that has already given them a layer of tenacity and fearlessness.
Hegner was a right-handed pitcher with the Georgia State Panthers in 2015 and 2016, a late-inning relief specialist who would come in to the so-called “dirty” inning. There could be runners on first and second, one out, two outs, or … no outs. It was his job to get out of the jam and preserve the lead.
Mead was an undersized hitter on the right side for Georgia Institute of Technology’s volleyball team. She is just 5-foot-9 inches, but she would jump and fly above the net in an attempt to kill the ball for points against taller players. Mead was named All-Atlantic Conference all four years at Georgia Tech and was named All-American because she could also defend against hits coming back at her.
“Volleyball prepared me in a sense that I am no stranger to long days,” Mead said. “There is a difference between physical and mental exhaustion, and I had both going through a place like Georgia Tech. It is very challenging academically, and then playing volleyball three or four hours a day took something out of you. The experience of athletics and academics gives you this mindset that you have to finish. You’ve got to complete all your work, and you’ve got to work hard.”
Mead graduated from Georgia Tech in 2012 with a degree in business/marketing. She played professional volleyball in Puerto Rico and then in Azerbaijan for nine months, stretching from 2013 to 2014. She learned some Russian and Azerbaijani, enough to communicate on the court, call a cab or make her way through daily life.
Mead was going to play volleyball again in Puerto Rico when she ruptured her Achilles tendon and retired from the sport. Then, she decided to pursue a law degree.
“I wasn’t that person who just grew up knowing what I wanted to do,” Mead said. She laughed and thought about the movie Legally Blonde. “My friends would call me ‘Elle Wood’ because it seemed like I just woke up one morning and said, ‘Hey, I think I’ll go to law school.’”
Mead, who wants to specialize in intellectual property and entertainment law, has worked at Georgia-Pacific and
has a summer associate position at Alston & Bird.
Volleyball has given her some steel, but so has her high-achieving family. Al Mead, her father, set the world record in the long jump in the 1988 Paralympics. Her sister, Ashley Jackson, also played volleyball at Middle Tennessee State University and is completing her residency to be a doctor. Her brother-in-law, Kyle Jackson (J.D. ’15), played football at Georgia Tech.
“There are no excuses for me not to achieve,” Mead said, “not in my family.”
Hegner graduated from Pope High School in Marietta and survived the competitive grind of junior college baseball to get to Division I at Georgia State. He spent a year at Northwest Florida Junior College, then Wallace State Junior College. No one holds your hand as a pitcher in ultra-competitive JUCO baseball. They don’t count pitches so that you don’t hurt your arm. You go pitch and get batters out, or you don’t, and someone else takes your role.
According to the NCAA, just 2.1 percent of high school baseball players ever get Division I baseball scholarship money.
Hegner survived college baseball without a consistent 90 miles per hour fastball, which is the benchmark for college pitchers these days. He could hit 90 on occasion, but he was more consistently around 87 to 88 mph. Hegner relied more on cunning —sending a sinkerball or cut fastball — and it was difficult for hitters to get the barrel of the bat squarely on the ball.
When you do not overpower hitters, you master another skill in baseball, which can translate to law school and a courtroom. That skill is referred to as “mound presence,” the art of staying in the moment, pitch-by-pitch, and not getting distracted.
Hegner said Georgia State Law offers a program on “mindfulness,” which relates to being on the pitching mound surrounded by pressure.
“The program teaches you mindfulness, meditation and controlled breathing to calm your nerves, which is what they teach pitchers,” Hegner said.
“Being called on in class in front of peers is stressful, so to have that presence of mind and be able to relax in pressure situations when everyone’s eyes are on you is something I have learned being an athlete.”
Hegner, who has a degree in political science, has worked in the state Capitol as a legislative aide for Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers). He tutors Georgia State athletes in American government, philosophy, history and some English, so he knows how to work with a full plate.
“The adversity you get as an athlete, it gives you confidence in yourself,” Hegner said. “You get into law school, and it can tear you down and make you lose faith. Then you think, ‘I have faced tough times before. I’ve been here before.’ You don’t lose all faith, because you’ve been there. Baseball has helped me, in that regard.”