PITTSBURGH – Duquesne’s Kiersten Elliott thought she was opening another compliance letter to be signed. Her coach Dan Burt had said as much while distributing white envelopes to Elliott and her teammates.
However, the contents inside Elliott’s envelope were anything but.
The Duquesne women’s basketball Twitter feed posted this video around 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning:
As you can see, Burt surprises Elliott, a redshirt sophomore, with a full athletic scholarship.
“He originally said it was going to be a compliance meeting and they were going to be compliance forms we were going to sign,” Elliott said of the envelopes. “Everyone else’s said, ‘We’ll be offering Kiersten in 10 seconds so be quiet.’”
Burt strategically sealed Elliott’s envelope with tape, adding to the ruse and allowing her teammates to watch her reaction as she fumbled to rip open her letter.
“My letter said, ‘Congratulations, consider this your official scholarship papers, you are on a full-ride,’” Elliott said. “So I was very surprised and taken aback.”
As expected, Elliott is reduced to tears, realizing her life-long dream is now a reality. Her teammates pour over her, sharing in her triumph.
“I was so confused,” Elliott said. “I was like, ‘Is this real or am I dreaming?’ Because this has been one of my biggest dreams since I was real little, and for this to actually happen, I was so surprised it would come this way. It seemed really surreal to me.”
The Glenshaw native originally walked on at Duquesne after leading Vincentian Academy to four straight WPIAL championships. She sat out her first year but broke into the Dukes’ rotation last season, appearing in 18 games.
Sports teams are all-inclusive, but student-athletes fortunate enough to attend school on scholarship understand the sacrifices and levels of commitment walk-ons make. It’s why Elliott’s teammates’ responses are so genuine.
“Their reaction was amazing,” Elliott said of her teammates. “That’s how our relationship is. They’ve welcomed me and embraced me from the beginning. They’ve always treated me as part of the team.”
“What really made it special was how excited they were for me, and I was so grateful to them because they are the ones who helped me throughout this entire experience.”
Unbeknownst to Elliott, Burt had invited her mother. After celebrating with her teammates, Elliott went to hug her coach. It was then he revealed her mother was in attendance.
“He said, ‘Go hug your mom first,’” Elliott said. “She said she was so proud of me. She didn’t know what to say, she was just so happy and proud.”
Naturally, the 56-second clip went viral. It has been viewed nearly 800 times on YouTube and shared by numerous Pittsburgh media outlets. Elliott has heard from former teammates and friends she hasn’t spoken to since high school. The response has been more then she could imagine.
She bought into the program on a level very few could, and Burt rewarded her for her commitment and hard work. For that, Elliott is extremely grateful.
“He doesn’t know how much this truly means to me and how it helps my family,” Elliott said of her coach. “I’m very lucky, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything.”