While its still rare, girls playing football is becoming less shocking. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, over 1,800 females in the U.S. played football for their high schools in 2012. That number went up by 1 this season in Cushing as Jennifer Ferguson wears the purple and white on Thursday nights for the junior varsity.
Defensive lineman Jessie Williamson said, "When I first seen her, I was like is that a girl and then I was like, yeah, yeah that's a girl."
Ferguson who watched Cushing on Friday nights as a little girl has always dreamed of playing the sport she loves. First year head coach Bill Jehling made it a reality. Ferguson said, "We got new coaches, and heard that we could and that he was still letting people join. So I came and asked and he said I start Monday." Jehling added, "If we are going to have our motto has a family that means we are open to everybody playing football, boys, girls, anything. "
Getting hurt, its possible, but the sophomore lineman isn't worried about that. She's focused on improving and competing on the gridiron. She says, "This sport might be made for guys to play, but it don't mean nothing. It all depends how much you are willing to put out there." Jehling added, "She came up to me in the hall and said coach can I play and I said sure and I just walked away and said I will never see her again. She pursued me out every single day to make sure I knew she was coming out to play." Fellow defensive lineman Trey Davis added, "She is giving it her all and you cant fault her for that. She is coming out here trying, playing the sport she really likes."
Once Jennifer steps between the lines, she becomes more than a girl with a helmet on. The players treat her just like any other teammate. Davis says, "Don't treat her no less or no more. Williamson added, "Once she steps out here with those pads and helmet on its the same for everybody. 'Do you take it easy on her'? I don't hit her as hard as I can. Not all of them put all their effort, but I will get on to them and tell them to put more because when I go up against another team, they don't know me."
Understanding football lingo and learning the right technique have been the biggest challenges thus far. Jehling said, "The learning curve is pretty big. You can tell she knows the sport from watching it on TV, but there are a lot of things she didn't know about the sport. Jennifer said, "They helped me out with some of my tackles, especially on my first day in pads."
And as much as the Bearkats are family, there is one time where their down a member.
Davis says, "I think she has her own dressing room, I haven't seen her in there, but...
Ferguson replied with, "and yes I have my own locker room."
Jennifer will play in her first J.V. game on Thursday. She hopes to continue to play and make it to varsity before her senior year.
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