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Student to throw footballs for tuition

Jennie Armstrong is on a mission to save the world

A senior in mass communication, Armstrong will have to live up to her name if she wants to reach her goal. In a sense, Armstrong really does have the whole world in her hand —to save it, she must throw a football at a target.

It all started when she was walking through Free Speech Alley between classes. Armstrong was stopped by a representative from Dr. Pepper, who asked if she'd like to record a short video in order to win tuition money.

Armstrong, who describes herself as "the least-shy person ever," said she went into the parked bus and made a short, impromptu video following the given rules: explain why the tuition money would be useful, say something about LSU and Dr. Pepper.

"I basically said 'Hi my name is Jennie, and I want to change the world with this money,'" she said.

Armstrong explained her desire to fight human trafficking and stand up for the rights of others. She is active in Tigers Against Trafficking, the International Justice Mission and serves as the executive director of Up 'til Dawn and president of the Public Relations Student Society of America, among many other groups and organizations.

From there, Armstrong's video was tossed into the mix with thousands of others from students around the country, all entering in Dr. Pepper's Million Dollar Tuition Giveaway.

Next, Armstrong was put into the finals, along with four other students from the SEC, five students from the ACC and five students from the Big 12. She has been awarded $5,000 in tuition money, along with a four-day, paid trip to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta which will be held Saturday, Dec.4. There, the contest will continue.

Friday, before the big game, Armstrong will face the other finalists. The students will have 30 seconds to toss 10 footballs at a target 5 yards away. The target is an oversized Dr. Pepper can, with a 2-foot hole cut into it, at 6feet high.

The top two students will continue to the final round of the competition: same throwing contest, different location. The final round will take place at halftime of the SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome, with more than 70,000 fans present, not to mention those watching on television.

Armstrong is trying to rid herself of the pressure by practicing her throws at a target she created—a pole with a box attached at the 6-foot mark. She also met with LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard for some pointers on throwing. While he emphasized feet and hand positioning, he told her to relax.

"Think about that ex-boyfriend," he said. "Think about those people that made fun of you in high school."

He wished her luck and assured her the football team would be cheering her on, waiting for her to win the grand prize of $123,000 in tuition money.

The grand prize would be added to Armstrong's current $5,000 winnings. If she places second, she will walk away with $28,000 in total prize money.

Physics professor David P. Young, Ph.D., shows mass communication student Jennie Armstrong the equation for projectile movement.

"Part of me keeps saying I'm blessed that I already have the $5,000," she said, standing on the LSU practice field. "But the other part of me knows the grand prize money can completely change my life."

Armstrong, a Metairie native, has her sights set on earning a master's degree in public policy and international law from the American University in Paris, France after she graduates from LSU in May. From there, she would like to attend American University's law school in Washington, D.C. With the prize money, Armstrong could graduate from school debt-free, which is something most students only dream of.

While her practicing helps her prepare for the big day, Armstrong said she is trying to get mentally focused, loading up her iPod with DJ Khaled's "All I Do is Win" and New Orlean's rapper Lil Wayne's "Money On My Mind."

But Armstrong is also sharpening her physics skills. She met with physics professor David P. Young, Ph.D., for a lesson on projectile movement.

"Once the ball leaves your hand, you are done applying forces to it," he said.

Because the football's path creates a parabolic shape, or an arch, it will reach its peak at the halfway mark, meaning Armstrong can't aim directly at the target. However, because she is only throwing the ball from 5yards away, there is very little air resistance to consider.

Armstrong will be throwing a Wilson 1205, a regulation high school football, which is smaller than what is used in college games.

"I know I can do it," she said. "It feels so real."

Once arriving in Atlanta with her guest, her mother, she and the other finalists will enjoy dinner, a concert and a party, all on behalf of Dr. Pepper.

"I'm really excited," she said. "It's been really cool having everyone rally around me."