Note: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.
A sixth-grade girl played wide receiver and cornerback for the Robertsville Middle School Rams this season.
It’s unusual but not unprecedented for a girl to play football, although it’s not clear if one has played wide receiver and cornerback before. Other girls have played for Robertsville before, but Steade might be the first one who wasn’t a kicker, Rams Coach James Branson said. He said RMS had a female kicker, Reagan Madden, a few years ago.
Oak Ridge Wildcats broadcaster David Clary said there were two females who played in the early 2000s, and one, Lori Niemeyer, kicked an extra point in a game against Sevier County in 2002. Niemeyer is the only female Wildcat to score in a football game, Clary said.
“There have been a couple of others that have played middle school though,” he said.
Other schools have also had female kickers. This year, Lenoir City High School senior Hailey Abston is the goalkeeper on the school’s soccer team and also the kicker on the football team.
At Oak Ridge, Niemeyer played all four years, Clary said. Another girl played line, he said, but she only played one year.
Branson said Steade, who played her first year of football this season, has good hands as a receiver and tackles well as a cornerback. Only in sixth grade now, she could play another two years at Robertsville. Branson said he hopes she “steps up.”
Branson said he doesn’t recognize Steade as different than the other players.
“It’s not even a big deal to us,” Branson said. “We just kind of treat her as one of the other team members.”
Steade’s mother, Maria Steade, said they initially thought Isabella, who also plays basketball for RMS, could only be a kicker.
Her daughter has played a few times. Maria, who was standing near the sideline during the City Championship game between Robertsville and Jefferson Middle School on Thursday, said she gets a little nervous when Isabella is on the field, but her daughter has been doing well.
Her mother said Isabella is not treated differently on the football team.
“She was practicing just as hard as they were,” Maria said. She’s treated like one of the boys, Maria said.
Isabella may try out at RMS again next year.
“As far as I know, she wants to play next year,” Maria said.
Note: Since we published this story, we have received information that Amanda Kuipers played wide receiver and free safety on the Jefferson Middle School team in her seventh-grade year in the fall of 2010, and Brittany Evans Bogard played defensive back for Jefferson when she was in seventh grade, when there were several girls on that team.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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