- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - When a girl joins her high school football team, she’s usually one of two things: a manager or a kicker.

But not 17-year-old Madisen Ramos. She wanted the pads, the helmet, the jersey, and the full-body contact experience. She wanted to be known for something different.

When she approached Eastern High School football coach Josh Edwards three years ago about wanting to be on the team, he didn’t know exactly how to respond.

“My first reaction was I asked her if she wanted to be a manager,” Edwards said. “She said, ‘No, I want to be on the team.’ I said, ‘OK, but you’re going to have to do everything the guys do. Weightlifting, drills, everything. There will be no exception because you’re a girl,’ and she said that was fine.”

And just like that, Madisen Ramos donned the number 65 and became the only girl on Eastern High School’s football team.

The first year wasn’t easy. Ramos, whose position on the team is offensive lineman, didn’t get much play time because she was still learning the ins and outs of how football worked.

But some of the practice drills were so tough, she seriously considered quitting.

“My first year I was like, ‘OK, I’m not doing this again,’” Ramos told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/ZxwepX ).

There was a particular set of drills that Ramos couldn’t stand. They were called Up-downs.

“I hated them,” she said. “They’re when you’re jogging in place and then you go to the ground and get up really fast. Hated those. Hated them.”

She persevered through it, and she’s glad she did.

“I didn’t want to be that girl that quit,” Ramos said. “I love the coaches and I love everyone on the team. That’s why I stayed.”

According to senior quarterback Austin Bates, when Ramos first joined, the rest of the team didn’t really know how to take it. But it wasn’t long before she became just another member of their football family.

“She’s very outgoing. She’s the only girl on the team, so you can’t exactly be shy in that atmosphere. We treat her just like any other teammate. She’s great to be around,” he said.

In fact, sometimes Ramos is referred to as “mother” by some of her teammates.

“It’s cute,” Ramos laughed. “The guys watch what they say around me. I don’t like cussing and I’ll tell them not to cuss, and some of them are nice about it and they’ll watch themselves. And sometimes I fix the tags on their shirt. If it’s sticking out, I put it back in and they say, ‘Thank you, mother.’”

Not only does Ramos get support from her coaches and teammates, but the fans cheer her on when she’s out on the field, too.

“Whenever I’m walking back to the sidelines and I hear, ‘Go Madi!’ It’s cool,” Ramos said. “I get embarrassed and say, ‘Oh my gosh, thanks.’”

Ramos, who has to get ready for games in another locker room or the women’s bathroom, usually gets a few double takes when she emerges with her shoulder pads and jersey on.

“Girls say, ‘You’re on the football team? That’s awesome. That is so inspiring,’” Ramos said. “It’s sweet. I love it. It’s so humbling.”

When Ramos isn’t in a play, she channels her energy into cheering on the team from the sidelines. Her teammates are grateful for her support.

“She’s very supportive of the team’s efforts,” Bates said. “She’s always the first one to cheer on a big play. She definitely leads the sideline. She brings a lot of extra enthusiasm to our team and it’s really nice to have. She’s behind the team 110 percent.”

Edwards says Ramos’ commitment to the team is unparalleled.

“She’s been in there thick and thin through the drills and training,” he said. “We always talk about her as a coaching staff about how committed she is to this and how she’s become a pretty good football player. She demonstrates that commitment that I’m trying to get out of the rest of the team. She conveys the whole package as a person.”

Over the past three years, Edwards said Ramos has become like a daughter to him, but coaching her has been a learning experience.

“I don’t coach her the same way I coach the guys,” Edwards said. “With guys, you can be more hands on and demonstrate. With her, I don’t think it’s appropriate. I do try to protect her. I try to keep her out of situations where she might get hurt.”

Edwards said even though Ramos is physically outmatched most of the time, she knows what she’s doing. Her knowledge of the game has come a long way, as have her drive and determination.

“The first year I think maybe she joined because she wanted to prove she could do it, but I think she’s actually grown to like it,” Edwards said. “I feel like she has some confidence in her abilities now.”

Now during her senior year, Ramos is a starting offensive lineman for Eastern’s JV team, and she has gotten in on several plays during varsity games, too.

Even though Ramos has no plans to continue the sport after she graduates in May, when she looks back, she realizes just how much she’s improved from when she began her football journey three years ago.

“I learned I can do a lot of stuff,” Ramos said. “I can push through. I’ve gotten stronger. And I’m better. I’m not the best football player ever, but I’m better at my football skills and I’m better than people who don’t know what they’re doing,” she laughed. “I think.”

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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