SI: After the Miss America competition, this interview should be a walk in the park for you.
Downs: Well, at least there's no crown at stake.
SI: Is volleyball good training to become Miss America?
Downs: I related to the competitive element [of the pageant] because so much of my background has been athletics. I've been playing sports since I was five years old.
SI: How did you get started?
Downs: My dad is very athletic, and we would play catch in the backyard. I lived in a small town [Edison, Ga.], and they didn't have a girls' softball team, so I just started playing baseball. All these boys would make fun of us and call us sissies because there was a girl on the team. But as a pitcher, I got to exact my revenge by striking them out and sending them back to the dugout in tears. I played boys' baseball till I was 10 or 11.
SI: Think those boys are regretting treating you badly now?
Downs: I wish I knew where they were. I'd send them a link to the [Miss America] website.
SI: You played one season of volleyball at Virginia before giving up your scholarship to focus on classes. Did your teammates know about your aspirations to become Miss America?
Downs: No. When I gave up my scholarship I needed a way to pay for tuition, so somebody suggested I do a Miss Alabama preliminary. My former teammates thought I was crazy at first, but my best friend, who was the starting setter, went all five years that I competed in Miss Alabama. It was like a sporting event to her.
SI: Can you assure our readers that you took no performance-enhancing substances to win the Miss America competition?
Downs: I have no connection with BALCO, I promise. --Richard Deitsch