Hailee Ramos is the lone girl on Patriot High's 48-player freshman football squad this year. What position do you think she plays?
- Wide receiver
- Offensive tackle
If you said D, you are correct. Hailee likes to joke and has a sweet heart and an even-keeled disposition, her coach said. She's also got a tough streak, as she blocks bull-rushing defenders using her 5-foot-4, 120-pound frame. By way of context, the average NFL offensive lineman is 6-foot-5, 312 pounds.
"I tried getting her to play wide receiver," said Patriot football coach Eric Hammond. "But she was adamant about playing offensive line. She likes the contact."
While the job is demanding, Hailee earns playing time through hard work, a high football IQ, and physical resolve, Coach Hammond said. She "works her behind off in practice," has good technique and communicates effectively on the field. She can also think on the fly as defenses make shifts intended to perplex the offense.
"Offensive line is a critical thinking position," Mr. Hammond said. "A lot of boys get confused and flustered by defensive adjustments. But she doesn't." That savvy, along with physical grit, is crucial to success at the position.
Her teammates respect Hailee's drive and talent, said the coach – as do opponents, although other squads don't always realize that under the helmet and pads, number 51 is a girl. "There's a connection, a camaraderie with the boys. She does everything all the boys do as far as conditioning. It's like a big family, and it's neat to see the interaction."
The team is also thriving on the field, with a record of 8-0 as of Friday, Oct. 21.
"I love their work ethic, attitude, and desire to learn," Mr. Hammond said of his squad. "If we do the little things, the winning will take care of itself."
Hailee is the backup right tackle, and her minutes per game vary depending on how each contest unfolds, Coach Hammond said. She might see the field in for 15 minutes in some games, and five minutes in others. Inevitably, though, as a competitor she requests more reps.
And while the coach gives her as much playing time as possible, there is no special treatment for the team's lone girl.
"Absolutely not," Mr. Hammond said. "I explained that to her in the beginning, and she said she'd have it no other way." Football is a merit-based game, and she'd have to earn her spot like everyone else.
As for whether Hailee's success on the team will inspire other girls to follow her path, the coach said he hopes so. "It opens eyes on campus. And I think it's going to break down some barriers."
Hailee's work on the team illustrates that students can do anything they put their minds to, he added. "You get what you earn. Our football team is a microcosm of life."
Click here for Hailee's Interview on NBC Los Angeles.