Texas rowing’s Alex Watson: Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year

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Alex Watson has been named Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year and Big 12 Rower of the Year after graduating with a 4.0 GPA from the University of Texas (photo courtesy of texassports.com / graphic by Horns Illustrated).

IRVING, Texas — Selected because of her inspirational story, amazing achievements in sportsmanship, overcoming extreme challenges, and her community service throughout the academic year, Texas rowing's Alex Watson has been named Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year.

Watson becomes only the seventh person from Texas to earn this distinction.

"I am immensely proud and happy for Alex, and she is a most deserving recipient of this award after everything she has been through and achieved during her career at Texas,” Texas rowing head coach Dave O'Neill said. “Individual contributions are often difficult to recognize in our sport, but our team could not have accomplished what we did without her hard work, technical skill and outstanding leadership. It was an honor and privilege to be her coach.” 

In August 2017, Watson contracted a bacterial infection in her throat that led to sepsis. It is called Lemierre Syndrome. Her infection did not respond to antibiotics and her condition became so severe that nodules formed in her throat, causing her to stop breathing at one point. Doctors could not operate on her throat because Watson's heart rate was too high, so they had to put her in a medically induced coma that lasted three days.

Watson was revived, and then spent a week in ICU and started her recovery in the hospital for another six days. During her recovery, Watson could not eat, drink, walk or talk and lost close to 30 pounds.

Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year Alex Watson reflects on what it has meant to hear to row for the Texas Longhorns (video courtesy of Texas Athletics).

Drawn back to the water, Watson was back to full workouts in February 2018, just six months after contracting and recovering from Lemierre Syndrome. She then earned a spot on the Varsity Eight and help Texas Rowing to a third-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships.

Watson's true character emerged after her near-death experience and she become the emotional leader for her rowing team. She was the metronome the team listened to for resilience, grit and determination in practice and in regattas for competition. Going from her hospital bed and almost dying at the start of school to rowing in the top boat at the NCAA Championships the next spring gave coaches, staff and teammates inspiration. Watson is described by teammates as someone who came back with a humble, workhorse mentality and a constant positive presence in the boat.

Watson was named Big 12 Rower of the Year and helped Texas Rowing win their first NCAA National Championship in program history as a member of the First Varsity Eight that won the Grand Final that clinched the title. Her boat also went undefeated for the season.

Watson graduated in 2021 from UT with a major in nutrition and a 4.0 grade point average.

Watson on how special being a student-athlete at the University of Texas meant:

Texas rowing head coach Dave O'Neill and Big 12 Rower of the Year Alex Watson visited with Horns Illustrated before competing for — and winning — the 2021 national championship (video by Horns Illustrated).

Terry Middleton

I like exploring the why's and have three objectives. First is to give value to those who would spend time with our content. Second is to be respectful of others and for the opportunity to tell a positive story about all of the Texas Longhorns teams, players, and coaches regardless of their record. Lastly, to put wind in the sails of others using the Horns Illustrated platform. Life is GOOD!

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