nic k Si
Special to the Jewish News
armington East Middle School
was facing Farmington Power
Middle School in a hard-fought
East's tailback was injured, so the coach
put in his fullback, number 22, and called
a short passing play. Number 22 caught the
pass and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.
The Power team's disappointment quick-
ly turned to surprise when, in the end
zone, number 22 removed her helmet, let
down her hair and rearranged it so it wasn't
in her face. "No one told them," explains
number 22, Danielle Klavons, "there was a
girl on our team."
Klavons, 12, is the only female player at
East and possibly the only one in the area.
She and a friend first decided to try out for
the school's football team as a joke. When
her friend hurt her knee, she encouraged
Klavons to go to the tryouts anyway.
"At first, I was really nervous," she says.
"Many people thought I wasn't serious
about the game and thought I was doing
this for attention."
But she proceeded to prove them wrong.
Once Klavons made the team, she tried a
number of different positions before find-
ing one she liked. She didn't catch well
enough to be wide receiver and didn't enjoy
the tailback position. After a few practices,
Klavons settled at fullback, generally block-
ing for the quarterback but also running
the ball and catching passes.
A young player takes
a football league by 60 yards.
Klavons is athletic. She participates in soft-
ball, swimming, gymnastics and track, and
has set numerous schbol records in track.
In her opinion, "It's not a stretch for me to
be playing football."
Born on a Super Bowl Sunday, she has
always been a fan of college football, espe-
cially the University of Michigan
Wolverines. But she would watch the
games with her friends or by herself, as nei-
ther of her parents were fans —that is,
until they started watching their favorite
"My mother was supportive from the
beginning; it was my dad who I had to
convince," Klavons says. After he tried to
discourage her from playing football, she
didn't tell him she was trying out for the
team. But when she made the team and
proved to all the doubters that she was seri-
ous about sticking with it, he changed his
mind and now attends every game he can.
"I was worried about her getting
injured," says Russell Klavons.
Danielle's coach is aware of her size and
ability — 5 feet 2 inches, 115 pounds. If
there are too many players on the field who
are much larger than she is, he won't put
her in. As for fitting in with the boys,
Russell Klavons says Danielle can hold her
own with her teammates. When they start
to tease her, he says, she "gives it right back
Logistically, being the only female on the
team isn't as difficult as one might think.
Klavons changes in the women's locker
room at East Middle School, and when the
team plays at other schools, the players suit
up at East before they get on the bus.
One OfThe Guys
As for the physical aspects of the game,
Danielle keeps up just fine. She says the
coach doesn't treat her any differently than
the other players, and she has to do as
many tackling drills as the guys. "Being a
fast runner helps," she explains, "and if you
know how to hit [another player] the ri ght
way, you can take them down."
Because Danielle was reluctant to let
other teams know she is a girl, she kept her
helmet on during games — until the game
against Power, when she scored the touch-
down. "My friends and family were all
there, and they were cheering and scream-
ing. I was so excited that I scored a touch-
down," she laughs, "but I didn't know
what to do once I got to the end zone."
She made such an impression on the
Power team that the Power coaches sent
her a card letting her know how impressed
they were with her performance. But once
she scored, the word was out and all the
Farmington middle school teams about the
girl playing for East.
"The guys [from other teams] would
look at our team and try to figure out who
the girl was," she says. East plays eight
games each season, twice against each mid-
dle school. "When we played Power again,
all the guys were tackling me, even though
I didn't have the ball," she says. "They did-
n't want me to score another touchdown."
Klavons plans to play again next year,
and is considering trying out for the high
school team. But she is not considering a
career in football — she plans to attend
college and then law school.
"I've always been proud of both of my
daughters," says Russell Klavons. Because
football is such a physical game, he admits
he was reluctant for Danielle, the elder of
the two, to join the team. "I was so sur-
prised when I first saw Danielle play. I was-
n't sure if she could do it. But she always
manages to prove me wrong and excel at
everything she does."
Klavon has many scrapes, bruises and
drag marks from playing football this sea-
son, but recognizes that it is all a part of
the game. "I'm sometimes at a disadvantage
with really big guys," she says, "but if you
believe you can do it, you can do it." ❑