Seventh grade girl plays football

By AJ Calabrese

Angela Knight ’14 was fast. She knew that much going into tryouts. She knew she liked football, watching it on television and playing flag for her elementary school. She knew she wanted to play in middle school, but there was only one problem, which was hardly a problem at all.

“At Harvard-Westlake there was no flag football, but I just went ahead and played tackle,” she said.

The middle school football program converted from flag to full on tackle in 2005. In the history of the seventh and eighth grade flag football program, there was never a girl on the roster, according to Lew Roberts, one of the biggest advocates of the tackle program, and now also Knight’s head coach.

Around the time of the middle school football conversion, Angela was attending elementary school at PS1 in Santa Monica. Her friends started playing football at recess, and it took her awhile to catch on. She admits she did not understand it that well at first and for this reason did not like it. But with the help of her friends, she soon embraced it and played it daily, her agility marking her as a constant threat during recess and during flag football season.

Knight was assigned to the J2 team in the middle school program, a rookie to tackle football, like the majority of seventh graders on the team. Her designated position was wide receiver, a given truth considering her speed. But after a program-wide scrimmage she was left yearning for something more.

“I realized I didn’t get to do much hitting,” Knight said. “So I asked the coaches to move me to a linebacker station during practice just to try it out and I really liked it, so I stayed.”

And thus the dual threat was born; Knight culminated a passion for the middle linebacker position, attaining a spot on the roster as second MLB in addition to starting wide receiver. Linebacker, a much more physical position, requires more down and dirty play, not to mention more face to face with potentially discriminatory adversaries. But Knight says she has not noticed any resentment or singling out because she is a girl.

“My ponytail’s in the back, so they’ll only know if they’re staring at my back, which usually doesn’t happen,” she said.

As a matter of fact, the fiercest adversaries Knight has had to face as a football player have been her parents, who at first were uneasy with the physicality of the sport.

“It took them a lot to be convinced,” Knight said. “My dad came over to my side pretty easily, but my mom was the hardest. I just told them there was so much protection and I was tough enough to take it.”

Knight has followed through on her reassurance to her parents, not to mention helping the J2 team to their best record in program history. But the biggest winner from all of this is Knight herself, whose newfound passion for defense gave her a broader respect for the game as a whole.