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MU junior a finalist for $123,000 scholarship from Dr Pepper

Friday, November 19, 2010 | 4:55 p.m. CST; updated 11:08 p.m. CST, Monday, November 22, 2010
Allison Schwartz, left, throws a football as MU quarterback Blaine Gabbert keeps time and backup quarterback James Franklin prepares to hand her another ball. Schwartz is competing for $123,000 from Dr Pepper on Dec. 3 in Dallas. She has 30 seconds to get as many balls out of 10 through a home 8 feet off the ground.

COLUMBIA — MU junior Alison Schwartz will join Missouri Tigers quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, James Franklin and Jimmy Costello on Monday for throwing practice. It's the latest in a series of unexpected events for Schwartz, who, because of luck and timing, is a finalist for a $123,000 scholarship from Dr Pepper.

During ESPN's "College GameDay," the MU junior, her face painted like a tiger, was spotted by a representative from the soft drink company to film a 30-second video about why she deserved the scholarship. She was then chosen as one of five finalists from 10,000 video entries nationally. 

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On Dec. 3, Schwartz will have the opportunity to throw 10 footballs into an 8-foot-high Dr Pepper can at the Big 12 Championship game in Dallas. If she comes in at least No. 2 in the preliminary competition, she can compete at halftime. The winner will walk away with $123,000, the runner-up with $23,000. But she is guaranteed $5,000 for being a finalist. 

"Right now, I'm pretty calm. But when I get there, I probably will be overwhelmed," said Schwartz, who is majoring in English and biochemistry and minoring in women's and gender studies.

A soccer player, Schwartz said she has been practicing throwing a football every day under her boyfriend's tutelage.

"I can attribute all my luck to my boyfriend," Schwartz, of Lee's Summit, said. 

On Oct. 22, the night before the Homecoming game against Oklahoma and the staging of "GameDay" at MU, junior N. Keith Myers told Schwartz, “Let's paint our faces and go out there.” Schwartz used her Walmart-bought kit to paint a fierce tiger on her face. Myers blackened his chest and arms and tied an MU flag around his neck as a cape. 

At 3 a.m., the couple headed to Francis Quadrangle. They stood on the stone plaque by the columns and were immediately four feet above the crowd. For eight hours, they screamed through a megaphone in the on-and-off rain. Myers lost his voice. He was tired and suggested to Schwartz that they leave the quadrangle.

On their way out, a Dr Pepper representative stopped them and asked them to enter the soft drink company's video contest. On the spot, digging deep despite how tired they were, Schwartz and Myers each gave their reasons for wanting to win the scholarship. 

On Nov. 3, Schwartz got several calls from a number she didn't recognize. Because the area code was out of the state, she thought it was a solicitor and didn't answer. But she searched online for the number and discovered it belonged to the Dr Pepper headquarters in Texas. 

"I was just so elated," Schwartz said. "I couldn’t even believe it. I seriously was going to cry."

This is still all pretty overwhelming for Schwartz, who supports herself through teaching piano, refereeing soccer and working as a lab assistant and who has plans to go to medical school.

"I didn’t even go to the game," she said, "because I couldn’t afford the ticket."


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