This Teenage Girl Is a Linebacker Among Boys

Is this girl paving the way for women in the NFL? Unless we're talking cheerleaders, gridiron is no place for a woman.

A Linebacker

That's what's ingrained in most football coaches and fans' minds – thanks to the gender stereotypes so prevalent in our society.

But in direct defiance of these mindless generalizations, a teenage girl at Gladewater Middle School in Texas didn't just make the cut on her school's football team but actually plays as a linebacker. Paige Smith, 13, was told two years ago by coaches to forget about playing football with boys, but she refused to take no for an answer and is now proving her naysayers wrong.

"They're like, 'No way, you're going to get yourself run over,'" Smith said in an interview with KTRK-TV. "And all of a sudden I'm running them over."

The school's football coach Scott Clower is also surprised by the ability of his newest pupil.

"This is my 24th year coaching and I've never had a girl play," he said.

And it's not like the boys go easy on her. In fact, Smith provokes them to try her with all their might because she wouldn't pull any punches herself.

Female players on school football teams are rare but it does happen every once in a while. What unique, though, is Smith's choice of position. It's unheard of for girls to play as linebackers, as the position requires heightened physical strength.

"She's not a punter, she's not a kicker -- she's a linebacker," Smith's mother Rhonda said. "My daughter is a linebacker."


While Smith's is an inspiring story already, she wants to take her passion for football even further. Her plan is to keep on playing the sport she loves in high school as well, but what after that? Can she take it as a profession one day? At the moment, three 11-on-11 football leagues for women are played in the U.S., but none of them are taken as seriously or generate as much interest as the WNBA.

Perhaps, the NFL – like the NBA – should expand its horizon and launch a women-only pro league so that girls like Paige Smith could showcase their talent on a bigger stage.

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