The word from Patrick Murphy was all Elissa Brown needed.

Alabama softball’s senior outfielder remembers the final meeting her head coach had with the seniors, in the days after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season. Murphy told them all that he would be willing to take them all back.

“I knew right then I was going to return,” Brown said, and return she will.

Brown is one of the seven UA seniors that will be back at Rhoads Stadium for the 2021 season. In doing so, she gets a chance to do something her original senior season would not have provided: play the entire season. Brown was on the bench when the season was canceled, healing a broken hand.

“I was planning on getting my cast off at 6 weeks and coming back after the South Carolina series, at least at the minimum running,” Brown said. “I was expected to make a full recovery, not too much time sitting out, but I guess it worked out for me in the end.”

Brown was off to a strong start before the injury. As UA’s starting center fielder, she had four hits in her nine at-bats, was successful on her lone stolen base attempt and scored three runs in what would prove to be her last game, on Feb. 8 against North Carolina.

After that, she would miss the five-game of the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational, the five-game Easton Bama Bash, the five-game Easton Crimson Classic and all three games of the first SEC series against Arkansas. If the season continued as scheduled, she would have missed another 12 games before she could come back just as a runner, much less return to fielding and hitting. (Brown is unsure when she would have been cleared for those activities.)

While she waited, all she could do was be a mentor to her replacement, freshman Jenna Johnson.

“Elissa’s been my role model since day one,” Johnson said. “I watched her on TV for years and watching her consistency every day in practice and on the field, it’s just so impressive. She’s truly helped my game improve, just by watching her every day.”

Brown added, “Jenna stepped up and did a great job in center field, I was so proud of her. It might have been scary or whatever for her to jump in, but if she ever needed anything I was there for her. We have a really good relationship, so I think that also helped.”

Just as she helped Johnson fill the void her injury created, Brown helped her fellow seniors cope with the loss of their seasons. She’s roommates with two seniors, Alexis Mack and Krystal Goodman; after Mack and Brown spent some time on their couch, staring at the ceiling with no idea of what to do next, they hosted the team at the pool near their apartment.

Thanks to the decisions of Brown and the other six seniors, such parties are possible again. Brown will graduate over the summer and start a one-year master’s program in sports hospitality, hoping this time to play her entire season season.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson