Former all-star South Eastern Conference soccer player and LSU homecoming queen. Mo Isom was living a dream come true for many young women growing up in the South. But Mo desired more.
This past week, Mo made her second attempt to join the LSU Tigers football team as a kicker or kickoff specialist. The beauty queen isn’t best known for her beauty but for the strength of her leg. As a freshman, she booted a free kick into the opponent’s goal – from her position as goalie. Yes, a 90-yard free kick for a goal.
But if you knew her story, Mo’s physical strength is far from her strongest characteristic. It is her unbreakable spirit.
“Rejoice in adversity.” These are the words Mo wrote in her blog earlier this month. These words, more than any, define this young woman’s life.
Mo Isom’s journey to today started when she was younger. High school will always a cruel place for those who stand out. Being a six foot tall woman with musculature created opportunities for bullies and other students to pick on Mo about her differences. So Mo began to obsess with how much and how often she ate. It got to the point where the mental strain was too much, so she purged.
Bulimia was Mo’s solution to her size. Tough at first, it became easier and easier. “There were times she would purge 9-10 times per day.” She finally got to a point to where she couldn’t handle it anymore. So she turned to her faith and her mother, she spilled everything to her mother and sought help.
The cruel comments followed Mo to LSU where SEC message boards discussed the fact that the girls’ goalie was 6-foot, 190 pounds. But Mo had confronted her self-perception demons and promised to not fall back into old ways.
As high as Mo was her freshman year after scoring a goal and dominating SEC play, her spring semester was invariably detrimental to her spirits. In January of 2009, Mo’s father committed suicide. She struggled through the stages of grief – even spending a large amount of time battling physical ailments associated with the grief and stress of the situations.
A car accident on her way home the following Thanksgiving sent Mo to the hospital with serious injuries. Cracked vertebrae, broken ribs, damaged lungs, damaged liver, and brain contusions were all results of the accident. She was confined to her bed for six straight weeks.
Mo walked away from the accident fully confident that God had left her there for a reason. She was determined to “live fearlessly and boldly” from that moment on. What better way to live like that than to be the first woman to play football in the SEC?
Those who didn’t know her and didn’t understand her motives constantly criticized her. Most assumed she just wanted attention or her “15 minutes of fame.” Mo went to spring tryouts but struggled with kicking technique. Coach Miles couldn’t offer her a spot on the team. Instead of feeling dejected, Mo used it as motivation and told the LSU coach,
“I guess this means I’ll see you at fall tryouts.” Mo trained all summer for the August 21 tryout. She nailed multiple 35-yard field goals in a row like she’d been kicking footballs all her life. She was battling three other students and two preferred walk-ons for a backup kicker spot behind all-conference senior Drew Alleman.
But when the final roster was announced today, Coach Les Miles had to break the news to Mo that she had not made the team. “I am heartbroken, but my head is held high,” Mo tweeted. “Knowing I gave everything I had is the greatest victory. Unending thanks to my LSU football fam.”
No matter what life has in store for Mo next, we have no doubt she will continue to inspire.