From the bleachers to the football field: Walker makes the football team

From watching in the bleachers to now rushing on the football field, Nevaeh Walker made the varsity football team for the 2018-19 season.

Ashley Edwards, Photography Editor

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For Nevaeh Walker, junior, playing football has been a dream of hers for as long as she could remember. She fell in love with the contact sport as a child from watching her family members play.

“I really wanted to play, because I started watching my older cousin Kenny when he was playing and I’ve always been wanting to do it, but my mom was scared and she was nervous too. She didn’t want her baby girl to get hurt,” Walker said.

Walker’s mother tried to keep her daughter away from contact sports like football for a long time. Walker’s mom put her in sports like softball, flag football and basketball to keep her safe. However, since this upcoming season will be Walker’s senior year, her mom is allowing her to play.

Before she could play, Walker and her mom had to have a meeting with Jarod Zito,head football coach, on what she would have to do on the team.

“Girls can try out for football, in terms of the rules. I sat down with her and her mom and kind of talked about all the things that she’d be asked to do. There would be nothing different asked of her just because she’s a girl,” Zito said.

The meeting was successful and now Walker is on the team. Right after the discussion, she was immediately on the field practicing, the first girl in OHS history to play on the football team.

“After the meeting, I just went to the practices and kept going in the morning and I started liking it even more and I just never stopped and never gave up,” Walker said.

Even though she is a girl, Zito said that she will be treated just like everyone else on the team, the same difficulty and training as the others.

“She’s getting coached like everybody else but we put her in a good match up situation, and she’s learning how to block and tackle from an injury prevention standpoint,”

Walker got to play in her first OHS football game on May 18, 2018. She was nervous at first, as any first time player would be, but she performed very well according to Zito.

“I think she got in toward the end of the game, first time just like any of our first time players, probably was nervous and didn’t know what was going on, but just the experience of it, learned how to be apart of it. At the end of the day, for all of our players, if they’re better people, whether they’re boys or girls, because they are apart of our program, they learn things about themselves and learn to put themselves out there a little bit, she’ll be better for it,” Zito said.

“The game on Friday, I was kind of nervous and at first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play. But as soon as I stepped on, it [ the nervousness] all went away,” Walker said.

Zito thinks that Walker will play really well this year and has already seen a lot of strengths in her.

“She showed up the entire offseason through our off season program,and she does a good job, she’s a pretty fierce competitor, she’s pretty strong in her legs, and I gotta give her a lot of credit for stepping a little out of her comfort zone, being the only girl,  and just embracing it and doing the best she can. If she’s willing to do that and wants to be a great teammate, I have no problem,” Zito said.

For Walker, she has been comfortable being the only girl so far. She is friends with most of the players on the team; however, she does get some backlash from people outside football.

“I just know that a lot of guys say ‘She’s not on the team, she can’t be on the team’ ‘A girl is not allowed to play football’, but I just ignore them and tell myself that I can,” Walker said.

Walker remains positive and keeps her head up when she receives negativity like this.

“If you want to do something, do it. Don’t let other people tell you ‘No’ or ‘You can’t do this’. You shouldn’t listen to what other people say. Just go with your heart,” Walker said.

She believes that anyone can play any sport they want to and in one doing what makes one happy. She doesn’t think sports should be separated by gender.

“I don’t really think there is a boy sport. Volleyball for one, I would say that is a ‘girl sport’ but there’s guys playing it. Or cheer, that should be a girl sport, but you see guys doing that. It shouldn’t be like ‘Oh this is a girl’s sport’ or ‘Oh this is a boy’s sport’. It should be, ‘this is a girl’s and a boy’s sport,” Walker said.

Gidget Gue, athletic director and softball coach, has been Walker’s weight training teacher for two years now. Gue is happy for her making the football team and has loved seeing her grow over the years.

“This is the second year I’ve had her an I’ve really seen her confidence grow. One of the things I see in the classroom is how helpful she is to all the young ladies in the class. She’s the spotter everybody wants and they really look to her as a role model in the training class,” Gue said.

Gue believes Walker is a good fit for football this season and hopes that she continues to have the ‘never give up attitude’ she has now.

“She needs to have the never give up attitude, do her best and as long as she’s doing her best, that’s good enough,” Gue said.

Along with sports, Walker has a love for photography and nature. One of her dreams is to be a NATGEO (National Geographic) photographer. She practices her skills by taking picture of her family.

“When I’m at home, I take pictures of my brother and my mom and all three of us. I want to be one of those photographers that travel around the world, like for NATGEO and take pictures of all the animals and everything or the rainforest. That would be really cool to be in nature,” Walker said.

She is also in love with animals, as she dreams of being a veterinarian also.

“I just love animals and nature. I’ve always watched animal planet and ‘NATGEO Wild’ the History Channel,” Walker said.

Walker would love to play football in college, but wouldn’t mind playing softball either.

“I would be really happy if I could play football in college because I grew up with an aunt who played football who played in college. If I don’t do football in college, then hopefully I can do softball also,” Walker said.

As for the upcoming season, Walker wants to make a few tackles and “show what a girl can do”. She wants to show that she is fearless on the field this season.

“Being better than some of these boys out there. Yeah I’m a girl but I can beat those boys too. I want to make a few tackles on the field to show that I’m not afraid. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Walker said on her goals for this season.

For the locker room situation, it is an easy fix, Zito will simply just ask for a place wear a girl can change.

We have girl managers and usually they need a spot anyways, so it’s not too big of a deal,” Zito said.

So for the locker room situation, that is the least of Walker’s problems, she has games to win and people to show that girls can do what boys can do.

“If you’re a girl and you want to do Nascar racing, you can do that, and with me, football. Nobody can stop you. There’s nothing, I’m pretty sure, on a piece of paper saying ‘No, girls can’t play this’,” Walker said.

She loves the fact she gets to show what she is made of out on the field. She wants to break the stereotype that girls can’t play certain sports.

“All of the guys think it’s cool and everything, a lot of them already know that I’m strong and some of them are scared of me, so it’s kind of funny. Some of them have my back and some of them, I’m showing that girls can also play football and girls aren’t scared to play. Just show them what girl can do,” Walker said.

Zito wants Walker to get the full experience and take in all that she can this season, since it will be her senior year. He knows that she will work hard and he hopes that she carries good memories with this season with her.

“Just for her to go through that experience of a season and going through Friday nights, and being apart of that, I think. At the end of the day, everybody wants to win, and everybody wants to get scholarships, but its the experience of the whole process and the program that you hope is what they remember,” Zito said on what he wants Walker to benefit from this season.

“I think what we try to build here is a program that is more than just about Friday winning. Although we want to win and be competitive and we have high goals, but it’s more than that,”  Zito said.

Gue wants her to grow as much as she can this season. Especially with being in a new environment.

“She will grow just by being in a challenging, new, different environment. So that helps you to grow and realize in life that you’re going to approach different challenges and that’s just one that she can say ‘I made it through that so I can do this too’,” Gue said.

One thing Gue wants to say to Walker this season is: “Just keep your head up and work hard.”

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About the Contributor
Ashley Edwards, Photo Editor

Ashley Edwards, a dedicated third-year journalist, was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on August 20, 2002. She started as a Marching Band Nerd but now...


2 Responses to “From the bleachers to the football field: Walker makes the football team”

  1. Toya on October 6th, 2018 12:48 pm

    When was this article put out….This should’ve been something well known rite when the season began.

  2. adviser on October 31st, 2018 1:54 pm

    The story was posted on May 24, 2018.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

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From the bleachers to the football field: Walker makes the football team