Watch LIVE

First female starter on middle school's football team says she becomes a 'total beast' when she hits field as an offensive tackle


'Girls can do more than just stay at home, take care of the kids, clean, and go to work. They can ... rewrite history.'

Image source: WTVA-TV video screenshot

Aniah Echols is the first girl to start for the football team at Mississippi's Oxford Middle School, WTVA-TV reported — and she plays on the offensive line at right tackle, the Clarion Ledger said.

And one wouldn't likely picture that upon seeing her during the school day.

"When I'm in the classroom, I'm more of ... my tomboy self, just chillin', like, 'Hey girls, hey ladies, how are you all?'" Aniah told WTVA.

Image source: WTVA-TV video screenshot

"Then when I'm on the field, I have to act like a total beast," No. 73 added to the station.

Image source: WTVA-TV video screenshot

Head coach Mike Hardwick noted to the Ledger that other girls have tried out for the team but never lasted — and that Aniah is "perhaps our best lineman."

Indeed, one male student told WTVA that Aniah is "tough" and can "knock 'em out."

More from the Ledger:

A blackbelt and gold medalist in taekwondo, [Aniah] isn't foreign to the relatively violent nature of football. She hates the word fragile, but she admits she was really nervous at first, practicing with the team and in games. What helped her get over the nerves? The first time she made a big hit.

She also has a strategy.

"They're 100 percent going to get sidetracked that I'm a girl, so I have the advantage to get them on the ground and say, 'Hey, get back up. We're still doing this,'" Aniah told the station.

In case you're wondering, the Ledger said the coaching staff sat her down before the season and talked through the challenges she could face — including the whole locker room thing, which is solved by Aniah changing down the hall from the team in a locking bathroom off the coaching staff's meeting room.

Another female makes history with the team, too

Joining her this season is the team's first female coach, Megan Wolfe, an assistant who teaches English at the middle school, WTVA said.

Image source: WTVA-TV video screenshot

Wolfe said she wanted to play in high school, but when she tried to attend an interest meeting, the coach "stopped me and said that girls didn't play football," she recalled to the station.

While Wolfe told WTVA the boys on the team accepted them both immediately, other teams don't always give them the same respect.

"We get the looks," Wolfe told the station. "Aniah and I have talked about ... how to handle it, and that's to be expected."

And it's bonded the two females.

"We got a little handshake that we do and stuff like that," Wolfe added to WTVA.

Image source: WTVA-TV video screenshot

Aniah told the station the best part of her experience so far is "being on the field when people told me I couldn't — and showing them that girls can do more than just stay at home, take care of the kids, clean, and go to work. They can ... rewrite history."

Most recent
All Articles