By Laura Pappano
Thanksgiving football, of course, involves Detroit. And while the NFL will get plenty of attention today, there has been another Detroit football story out there this season. Word that Monique Howard, 6-foot senior basketball player and track talent, tried out for – and made – the Pershing High School football team, was news this fall.
When Howard decided to try out for the team, her basketball coach and mentor, Shawn Hill, figured it was just Monique being Monique.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” he says, adding that, “I didn’t think she could do it.” Hill admits to being stunned when Howard not only made the team but became starting right tackle.
“It shocked me when she started. I was worried. I didn’t want her to get hurt. But I watched her play the first three games and then I thought, ‘She’s OK. She’s really holding it down.’”
Now that the season has ended, Howard talks about what the experience showed her – both about herself and about the beliefs people have about who can play football.
FGN: What made you decide to try out for the football team?
MH: My lineman coach saw me playing basketball and shot put for track and thought it would be a great idea. He said I was as tough as the boys.
FGN: Do you like playing football?
MH: I like tackling people, taking all the aggression out without getting in trouble for it!
FGN: Very few girls play football; and typically they are kickers. Reality is that you are matched up against guys who are a lot bigger. Was that scary?
MH: Before I started, everyone was saying, “You’ll get hurt!” Most teams’ players, they are bigger, but I was never nervous. My coach taught me different techniques – coming off the ball first, using my speed. As long as I come off the ball fast, it doesn’t matter how big and strong they are, football is all about timing.
FGN: You even pancaked an opposing player and they didn’t know it was by a female until you took off your helmet…
MH: They were jumping around saying, ‘That’s a girl you got pancaked by!!!!!”
FGN: Has playing football affected your hopes/plans to play basketball in college?
MH: Football helped me so much in basketball. My footwork got better. My timing has gotten better. (Shawn Hill agrees: “Now she’s used to being in a crowd. She has the patience to take her time with her layup.” )
FGN: What did you learn by playing?
MH: My whole mindset is that I can do anything I want to do if I put my mind to it. A lot of girls didn’t know that girls could play football. Really, boys and girls are basically equal when they work out and everything. Girls like a challenge. They can do what the boys can do.