Playing football like an angel

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Her name yields thoughts of serenity and gentleness in a sport where physicality takes center stage.

But don’t let her name fool you. Whether it’s on offense or defense, Heavenly McCormick has the ability to make an opposing football player’s life, well…un-Heavenly.

The idea of a girl playing organized football may be troublesome for some, but Heavenly is more than willing to prove her critics wrong.

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“Football’s made me tough,” said Heavenly, a sixth grader at Tipton Middle School. “I’m not scared of anybody and I don’t want to be scared of anybody.”

In fact, Heavenly may give the boys something to be scared of.

“A lot of boys didn’t think I could play,” she said. “A lot of them think I can’t do this because I’m a girl.”

That, Heavenly said, has been a popular belief since she began playing football three years ago. In her three seasons as an offensive/defensive lineman – or line girl – for the 49ers in the Selma Parks and Recreation Youth Football League, Heavenly has made believers of opponents, teammates and coaches.

“I make boys mad,” said the 12-year-old Heavenly, “because I hurt them a lot, usually the legs.”

“Oh, she’s definitely tough,” 49ers coach Butch Pritchett said. “She can hold her own out on the field.

“When you knock Heavenly down, she gets right back up and tries again,” he said.

Heavenly’s mother, Maria McCormick, said her daughter became interested in playing football three years ago when Chelsea Chamberlain was a kicker for the Dallas County High School Hornets.

“She wanted to play football and we figured (Selma Parks and Recreation) would let her,” Maria McCormick said. “I never had any concerns. She’s always been tough. She’s always played with the boys.

“Heavenly never played with dolls when she got old enough to play football,” Maria McCormick added. “She’s always been sort of a tomboy.”

Heavenly’s mother added that there was some concern in the family as to whether her daughter would be able to keep up with the boys.

“Her grandmother thought she would get hurt,” Maria McCormick said. “Not me. I know how tough Heavenly is.”

When her days in youth football are finished, Heavenly doesn’t plan to hang up her cleats for good. She said she would like to one day play high school football.

“If I put my mind to it,” she said, “I can play any position.”

The position Heavenly wants to try, however, is a bit different than those she has played. Heavenly wants to be a quarterback.

“I think I can do it,” she said. “I like to throw and run the football. I practice it all the time.”

If Heavenly’s dream comes to fruition, she can expect plenty of backing from her family.

“I’m all for it,” Maria McCormick said. “If she plays, I’ll be right there supporting her.”