Meet Georgia Teen Who Was Only Girl, and a Co-Captain, on Football Team

Rachel Eaves said the experience was scary at first.

ByEMILY SHAPIRO
October 13, 2015, 9:41 AM

— -- Thirteen-year-old Rachel Eaves is not just the only girl on her school football team; she's also a team leader.

Last year as a seventh-grader, Rachel was the only girl on the Columbia Middle School football team in Grovetown, Georgia. And this year as an eighth-grader, she became one of the team's six captains, Coach Brian Atkins said.

Rachel has been playing football since the fifth-grade, her mother Lori Burchett said, ever since she saw the cheerleading and football registrations next to each other at an open house and decided on the latter.

Rachel made the middle school team in seventh-grade, Burchett said, while about 20 boys were cut.

"We were excited," Burchett said. "It was validation that she was a pretty good football player, not just a novelty of being a girl."

Rachel, a fullback on offense and middle linebacker on defense, said the experience was scary at first because she was new to the school.

"I was the only girl there so it was just a little scary at first. But I got to meet everybody and then we were all really good friends," Rachel said.

"It helps a lot just with getting to know people," she added.

Coach Atkins said, "She's not a girl playing football; she's a football player that's a girl. She plays the game hard, she plays the game tough."

"If she didn't have her hair sticking out of her helmet, you probably wouldn't notice a whole lot of difference between her and the other guys. She plays just like the rest of them," Atkins added.

And Atkins named Rachel one of the team's six captains this year.

Rachel was a little concerned at first. "I thought some people wouldn't respect me,” she said, “but there wasn't any issues.”

Making her a captain was never an issue for the coach.

"When she came to me in seventh-grade, she had already been playing in some of the youth groups," Atkins said. "So she knew a lot of the boys. She was very comfortable playing ... it wasn't like it was her first time playing football when she came to me.

"She's very much a vocal leader," Atkins added. "She tries not to be because she tries to kind of be quiet ... but she is very good at getting behind the boys and telling them what to do."

Others were equally effusive.

"Rachel is a wonderful student, athlete and person," Columbia Middle School Principal Eli Putnam said via email, calling her "a role model for our male and female students."

Rachel's mother credits football with helping her daughter's confidence.

"When she first started in fifth-grade, she was really shy ... it kind of helped her be more outspoken," Burchett said.

Rachel's time on the team, which she called a great experience, has now come to an end with the conclusion of the school football season. And Rachel says she’s undecided what she'll do about football when she reaches high school next year.

"I'll see what happens," she said.

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