Stars of NCSD football team are girls

Originally appeared in Silent News, November 2001.

Usually, the opposing school is very conscious of the fact that the North Carolina School for the Deaf (NCSD) football team has two female players on the team.

“My players were very aware of the girls, ” says Ronnie Taylor of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg. “But when playing on the field, my team players had a hard time remembering that they were girls, not boys.”

Saprina David, a freshman, and Ebony Miller, a sophomore, are the school’s first female football players in its history. David, 14, is 5′ and 115 pounds. Miller is 15, 5’1″ and 180 pounds.

“These two girls are actually in the midst of the gridiron battling on every play as both are starters on our team,” NCSD coach and athletic director Mark Burke says. “If not for these two girls, we could actually have had  to cancel the season when we were hit with injuries as three have been lost for the season. It’s important to note that these girls did not join the team to allow us to have a team. They joined because they wanted to play football.”

Aside from giving the girls separate locker rooms, not much has been done to accommodate their gender differences. Burke says, “The girls are not given any slack in football just because they are girls, and they don’t ask to be given the slack, either.”

“When I was in the fifth grade, I became interested in football on television,” Saprina says. Her cousin taught her about the sport. “We still play whenever I go home on weekends. After about a year, I made it a goal to join the NCSD high school football team.”

When Burke came to the school in 1999, Miller asked him if she could play, since the previous coach had denied her request. “To me if anyone says they want to play football, they obviously have the desire for it,” Burke rationalizes.

The girls are excellent players. David, who plays wingback, wide receiver, safety and defensive linebacker, has had 14 receptions for 319 yards in the seven games she has played to date. She is currently second in receiving yardages and number of receptions on the team, in addition to having three touchdown catches with a long of 69 yards versus Kentucky. She also averages two to three tackles per game. “When [David] caught the ball and ran into the zone, I didn’t think she was a girl until she was in the zone for the touchdown…then I realized she was actually a girl!” Taylor says.

Miller is a starter on both the offense line and the defense line. Joining the team late in the season, she has recorded 17 tackles with a game high of ten versus South Carolina.

Burke is proud of his girls and the impact they have had upon the NCSD team.

“These two girls are doing damage to the opponents.”

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