They told Kayleigh McNair to wait a year, but the timetable would have caused her to miss her senior season.
The Harlem High School softball pitcher decided on an early return from shoulder surgery and struggled to make it through her last high school year.
She was worried about her chances to play in college.
"I actually thought I wasn't going to be able to go anywhere," McNair said.
The mood was much lighter Thursday in Harlem's media center as McNair signed with East Georgia College. Her supporters, looking at the green and gold jerseys spread on the table, joked that McNair would be wearing the colors of county rival Greenbrier.
The Bulldogs pitcher fully recovered from her surgery in January, threw well during a showcase in Statesboro, Ga., and earned an offer from East Georgia.
McNair said she liked the appeal of a first-year program. And Swainsboro, Ga., isn't too far from Mom and Dad.
"She had the grades, but she's having fun playing softball," Bulldogs softball coach Mike Leverett said. "In two years, she can decide where she wants to go."
In January 2009, McNair had surgery for what doctors thought was a torn rotator cuff. They instead found and removed a bone spur.
McNair was told a full recovery would take 12 months, that in January 2010 she would be like new.
She believes now she might have come back too early. She experienced soreness in her arm during her final season with Harlem.
McNair said her velocity was down and that she became timid in the circle.
"I struggled a lot," she said. "Everything was not completely back to normal."
Something clicked at the start of the new year. East Georgia coach Jordyn Nail watched McNair pitch in Statesboro. She was impressed with the way McNair threw and also praised her composure.
"What I saw was a hard-working player, which is what we want, and someone who is excited to be here, which is also what we want," Nail said.
The advantage of a first-year program is that McNair won't have to compete with upperclassmen for playing time. She will have the opportunity to compete for a starting role immediately.
"That's kind of exciting," McNair said. "I don't have something I have to live up to. There's nothing to compare us to."
McNair, who said she will study neonatal nursing, also considered Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Coker College, but the proximity to home sold her on East Georgia.
"It's been a long journey," McNair said.
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