Have you ever found yourself in the presence of someone you admire so much that suddenly you find it difficult to speak intelligently? Or speak at all?

Such was the case for me when I first met Christine Brennan, USA Today sports columnist, commentator, author, speaker, mentor and voice for justice in the world of sports.

In other words, superwoman in the world of sports journalism.

Christine, or Chris, as she’s known to friends, graciously agreed to not only appear and sign copies of her memoir, Best Seat in the House, at one of our first Claire’s Days, but offered to help honor children who were being given our C.A.R.E. Awards. Claire’s Awards for Reading Excellence are given to children chosen as the most improved readers in their classes.

The children may not have realized who Christine is, but all the adults in the audience did.

I watched in awe as Christine, along with several of her nieces, graciously recognized the young readers. You would have thought that she was handing an Olympic gold to one of her favorite figure skaters. She made the children feel that special.

She made Brad and I feel pretty special too. It was a feeling that stuck with me for a long time.

As I was given the opportunity to propose subjects to write about for the Biographies for Young Readers published by Ohio University Press, the admiration I have for Christine encouraged me to approach her.

I happened to still have her cell phone number, and she apparently hadn’t disposed of mine either.

When I called, I was expecting to get her voicemail. I was certain she wouldn’t either recognize the number or would have “broomed me” to tend to any breaking news in the world of sports.

Instead, she answered right away.

“Hey Julie, how are you? What’s up?”

There was no time to hesitate. I managed to gather my wits and outline the book project in the brief time she had to chat.

Without hesitation, she replied, “Absolutely. Oh, my goodness, I’m so honored.”

That conversation started an amazing journey of research, writing, and revising, ultimately leading up to the release in early April of Eye to Eye: Sports Journalist Christine Brennan.

It was such a joy getting to know Christine better, to sneak a glimpse behind the curtain of the world of sports journalism, to come to understand how significant and important she is to so many.

Including me.

I’m even more in awe of Christine Brennan now than I was before I started this journey.

But, thanks to Chris, I’m a little braver when approaching subjects to tell their stories.