When young UK fan Alex Otte sat on a jet ski in Lake Herrington at 13 years old, it was just a chance for her to enjoy herself. That was until her life was changed forever by an intoxicated man driving a boat right over top of her, causing internal bleeding in her head, a broken jaw, a broken neck, a broken collarbone, a lacerated liver and two shattered femurs. And on top of all that, her right leg was cut off by the propeller.
Alex’s life was changed forever by this incident. The 13-year-old middle school student just trying to find her way through adolescence now had to deal with some of the most traumatic and nearly fatal injuries you can imagine.
But that incident oddly pointed her in the exact direction that she was meant to go.
Alex was a basketball player, and, as I mentioned before, a UK fan, so obviously she loved Kentucky basketball. About a year after her accident, she went to John Calipari’s camp, which she told cn2's Lyndsey Gough all about.
"About a year after the crash I went to John Calipari’s basketball camp, which is typically all boys, and I knew that going in, but I went to it because I played basketball for a lot of years, liked to prove people wrong- just went to go. I kind of fell all over myself, was kind of a mess," Alex remembered. "I was standing in line for John Calipari’s autograph and Coach [Oliver] Rock came up to me, and I was limping just because I was tired and had been running all day and he said, ‘Can I ask what happened and why you’re so happy about it?’ and so I told him what happened and he asked if I would be interested in speaking to the football team."
When Alex spoke to the Kentucky football team, it allowed her to meet someone she probably thought she never would, and it led to an improbable, yet much-needed friendship for both sides.
Martavius Neloms, a former defensive back at the University of Kentucky, was on the team at the time, and when Alex spoke to Neloms and the rest of the team it created an instant bond.
"She told us about her story and we pretty much just started hitting it off from there," Neloms said.
This bond made them feel like siblings, as Neloms said he felt like her brother.
"Being her big brother from when she was in middle school, to telling her ‘you’re not allowed to date boys’, now she’s dating boys and she’s in college."
For Alex, it was great to become friends with Neloms, but speaking to the football team and being around them also helped her find her passion: photojournalism.
"For my 15th birthday, all I wanted to do was spend the day at football practice, so I went to football practice and my parents had given me a camera, so I was like ‘okay, might as well use it’, and then I was like ‘okay, I’m kind of good at this’," Alex said.
Alex has gone on to be a student at UK. Currently a sophomore, she is pursuing a career in sports journalism and works as a freelance photojournalist with the football team. Alex has made new friends, found her passion, found a new "big brother" and learned a lot about all the players.
As a student, Alex keeps busy by working three jobs and helping Mothers Against Drunk Driving to help stop drunk driving and keep others from having to go through the accident she went through.
Alex certainly is someone who made the best of her situation. She showed strength and courage through hardship; fighting to be healthy after the incident, going to Coach Cal’s camp, speaking to the football team, and making bonds that would last a lifetime while also finding her passion.