Valdosta Daily Times

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July 6, 2013

Girl defying odds at VMS

VALDOSTA —  In South Georgia, starting at a young age, every boy dreams of growing up and playing football, carrying on the proud tradition of Viking or Wildcat football here in Valdosta.

That dream isn’t just for the boys.

Spunky eleven-year-old Katie Walker is doing something unprecedented in Valdosta, she is playing with the boys.

As a matter of fact, Katie, who is going into the fifth grade, made history last year when she became the first girl to ever play football for the Boys and Girls Club while playing for the Colts 9-10 team.

Katie isn’t satisfied though; She has plans to play for the Valdosta Middle Wildcats this fall alongside brother, eighth grader Hunter Walker.

 Katie knows she has a lot of minds to change when she gets there.

“When I was at the Boys and Girls Club I was just having fun,” Katie said. “But now that I’m (at VMS) I’m trying to see if I can get respect on the football field as a girl.”

Katie isn’t just playing football in an attempt to make a statement on gender equality or anything, she just loves the game and the tradition of the Wildcats, especially within her own family.

Besides being inspired by her own brother’s play, Katie’s grandfather was a Wildcat at VHS; the Walker family has bled black and gold for over 60 years.

When meeting Katie her enthusiasm for football is hard to miss.

 Katie, while dressed in full uniform and pads, could talk about nothing but football, and in the rare moments she wasn’t talking football, she was attempting to take down Hunter on the playing field.

Katie played all over the field for the Boys and Girls Club including: Offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, fullback and, Katie’s personal favorite, linebacker.

“I like linebacker,” Katie said. “Being able to hit the boys and after everything is done, being able to take off my helmet and see that I’m a girl.”

While Katie may have always been sure of her desire to play football, her parents were, non-surprisingly, a bit skeptical to let their daughter play such a physical sport at first.

“The first year she wanted to play we told her, we’re glad you want to play, but let’s wait a year,” Katie’s mother, Jessica Walker, said. “If you still want to play next year you can.”

There was no doubt it Katie’s mind.

“When that year came back around I was like, I’m ready to play,” Katie said. “Let me get on that field, let me hit somebody.”

Katie is also helping girls follow in her foot steps by showing her peers that anything is possible.

“She played a lot last year and a lot of the other girls thought it looked like fun,” Jessica said. “A lot of the girls didn’t even know they could play.”

The other girls aren’t the only ones learning a lesson from Katie’s determination on the football field. The boys playing with and against Katie have already had a change of heart about playing with girls.

“None of the guys on the team wanted to hit her,” brother, and VMS player, Hunter said. “But we had to otherwise she was going to knock us down.”

Hunter said teammates quickly changed their perception from “we have a girl” to “Oh, it’s Katie.”

When Katie begins her VMS career next fall, the school is doing what it can to help accommodate her, and any girls interested in putting pads on in the future.

VMS is planning on installing lockers into the equipment room to make for a separate girls locker room away from the boys and without windows.

Valdosta football is Katie’s life, in fact, while leaving the interview she begged her mother to let her keep on her uniform as the ran errands.

Katie Walker has dreamed of growing up, playing football, and making the Wildcats proud, proving, it’s not just for boys anymore.

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