WILMINGTON, DE -- Felicia Perez didn’t suffer any injuries while playing football for Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware, last season. Unless you consider broken fingers to be injuries, which she does not.
That fearless attitude and a ceaseless work ethic have made this 4-foot-8 battering ram willing to smash her nose into any situation a hit with the Bulldogs.
“Felicia is tough as nails,” Brandywine head coach Isaiah Mays said last week. “The best way to describe it is she would much rather be the hammer than the nail. She definitely works hard every day, and she has no quit in her.”
Delaware has seen several girls play high school football over the last few years, but most have been kickers or safeties. Perez is a middle linebacker and fullback, which puts her in the pileup every time she's on the field.
She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“When I put the helmet on, and they put the helmet on, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “If you’re going to hit me, I’m going to hit you twice as hard.”
Perez began playing football at age 7, but had to stop when she sustained facial fractures after being hit by a fly ball in a baseball game two years later. She stayed active through swimming and frequent trips to a gym, but when she entered high school the thirst for football returned.
“I like to be the dominant person,” Perez said. “Other females follow other females. I’m not a follower. I’m a leader. So I decided I was going to play a predominantly male sport.”
So last season, before her sophomore year, she sent an email to Mays stating her desire to play. Then she made a memorable first impression.
“She showed up and she was short, only 4-foot-8,” the coach said. “But she goes to shake my hand, and I noticed from that moment, the firm handshake she gave. Once she did that, I thought she might be a heck of a ballplayer for us. Since that moment, watching her through weightlifting and everything, she’s been awesome.”
Football is Perez's year-round passion. She doesn’t play any other sports at Brandywine, choosing instead to participate fully in the Bulldogs’ offseason conditioning, weight training and 7-on-7 programs.
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