A Howard Co. 1st: Girl, 15, to play football

September 21, 1993|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

She's Howard County's first female football player -- a 5-foot 6-inch, 130-pound junior named Angela Wise.

The 15-year-old stepped onto the field at Howard High School yesterday, carrying the ball in a drill for running backs, hustling through exercises and fielding punts for her first practice.

"It's hard work, but I'm so happy," Angela said with a smile. "You've got to be tough and strong.

"I just want the girls who want to play football to go out and play because they can make it."

Angela, who says she prefers weightlifting and car repair to waving pom-poms, won a spot on the varsity team after contacting the American Civil Liberties Union about a sex-discrimination lawsuit.

She told the ACLU that coach John Quinn halted her tryout for the team this summer because she was a female, without giving her a fair chance to try out.

Principal Eugene Streagle received a letter from the ACLU Sept. 10 saying that the school was violating the federal Title IX by not allowing Angela to try out.

Mr. Quinn put Angela on the field Monday, while her father, Charlie Wise, about 40 students and some members of the news media watched her practice.

To stay on the team, Angela must complete the mile in 12 minutes or less and keep her grades at the "C" level or better because her grade-point average was below the required 2.0 last semester.

"I think if she wants to play, they should give her a try," said Kimberly Kim, a junior at Howard High who watched the three-hour practice. "But I would never try out for varsity football. They're big boys on the varsity team."

Because Angela is a junior, she had to try out for the varsity squad. The junior varsity team is for freshmen and sophomores.

Members of the varsity and junior varsity teams said they had mixed feelings about Angela's playing. Some said they didn't want a girl playing with them.

"Football is a boy's sport," one player shouted during the practice.

Some other players said they were waiting for her to put on pads so that they could "show her what football is about."

Angela gets her pads today. During yesterday's practice, she wore her weightlifting shorts and shirt and stood amid her new teammates, some of whom outweigh her by 100 pounds or more and others who stand a foot above her.

"I'm scared," she said. "I'm going to get hurt. I know that."

Mr. Quinn said that an injury to Angela is his biggest concern.

Unseating Howard High's starting players, who have led the team to a 3-0 season, could prove to be Angela's most difficult obstacle.

She caught only one of dozens of punts kicked to her while she stood alone on the field, and she ran the 40-yard -- in 6.09 seconds, about four-tenths of a second behind the slowest boy on the team. Faster players complete the 40-yard -- in 4.5 or 4.6 seconds, Mr. Quinn said.

"She's the slowest and the smallest player on the team," he said. "I'm going to try not to get her hurt. I have that concern for all my players."

Mr. Quinn is still deciding what her position will be.

Angela and her father said they wanted her to get a wide receiver position. "Wide receiver doesn't get that much action around the ball," Mr. Wise said.

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