Nellie Dodd: The heart of Hearnes

Nellie Dodd didn’t let a heart procedure keep her from supporting her favorite sport.

Super-fan Nellie Dodd cheers on the volleyball team after it won its first set Wednesday at the Hearnes Center. Dodd has been an avid Tiger fan for the past 30 years.

One word can best describe Nellie Dodd’s life thus far: heart.

Before undergoing a heart transplant in January 2006, Dodd would wake up at 8:30 a.m. to get ready for the day. At precisely 2:15 p.m., Missouri Director of Volleyball Susan Kreklow would pick her up and take her to watch the Missouri volleyball team practice.

Dodd has been an avid Tiger fan for the last 30 years, not even allowing a bad heart to keep her from the game she loves most.

“Well, my blood is black and gold, you just ask the doctor’s that did my transplant in St. Louis,” Dodd said. “One time I had a biopsy and the next night, I was here at the ball game. Normally, it takes me about two days to get over it, but I wanted to be here so bad.”

Dodd is the face of the Golden Tigers Fan Group, a volleyball spirit group geared toward senior citizens in the area.

By joining the Golden Tigers, senior citizens are presented with reserved courtside seating, social events during the season, biweekly volleyball updates, opportunities to assist the team and chances to meet coaches, players and staff — all for free.

But Dodd looks beyond these benefits, focusing more on how to help both the older community and the team.

“We are here to support each other,” Dodd said. “There are 726 of us. It’s a joy and an honor, that’s why we have the Golden Tigers.”

During the summer, she teamed with senior duo libero Pip Armendariz and middle blocker Brittany Brimmage to promote the group at the local Kiwanis Club.

“It was a lot of fun trying to get people to sign up for the Golden Tigers,” Armendariz said. “I think they really enjoyed having someone from the team come and talk to them and they were really interested in it.”

Since becoming the ringleader of the club, Dodd has built unforgettable relationships with her fellow Golden Tigers. Sometimes, she even invests more focus in them than in the game.

“If they’re here and they personally have a need, I’ll take care of them myself,” Dodd said. “Sometimes I’m here and I don’t see the game because I’m so busy with the Golden Tigers. But joy isn’t joy until you give it away. And it’s an honor for me to do this and to give back because really when you give, you receive.”

Dodd remembers how the team’s care helped her through her heart complications.

“The players are so inspirational," she said. "In 2005, before I got my heart, I was running on their hearts, not mine.”

Dodd emphasized the importance of the Golden Tigers supporting and encouraging both the program and each other.

“It’s nice to have someone encourage you,” she said. “I try to be an encouragement to everyone, that’s what God’s got me here for. Regardless of whatever health or where we come from, we are here to be an encouragement to the entire program, including the coaches, players and anyone associated with volleyball.”

Armendariz says she can always count on the support of Dodd and company.

“They’re our biggest fans,“ Armendariz said. “We can always count on them to be there. They take up more space than our student section, sometimes. They will always be there to support us.”

Although Dodd attends several other university sporting events, she makes known which one she holds the closest.

“I go to basketball, softball, baseball, you name it,” Dodd said. “Everyone always tells me that I don’t get this excited unless I’m at volleyball. I look at them and tell them, 'I may be here, but my heart is at the Hearnes Center.'”

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