When Olivia Perez heard that her life-long friend Brady Blakely might not get to play football his senior year because the Hornets didn’t have enough players to take the field, she knew something had to be done.
“I’m the only senior, and it was going to be sad to play three years and not finish out your last year of football,” says Blakely.
“Well actually, we had five show up for the first day of practice, and we were going along and we weren’t for sure if the sixth one was going to come, and I just walked through the gym one day, and I just jokingly said, ‘hey, do one of you girls want to play football?’ And I just kept walking. Well one thing led to another, and Olivia says, ‘I’ll play.’ And we were kind of like ‘yeah whatever.’ And then she came to me again and she goes, ‘no, I’m serious. I want to be the sixth one and make sure Brady gets to play his senior year,” adds Harrold head coach, Craig Templeton.
“I just wanted him to go out his last year how he wanted to go out, and play hard, and get a few wins if we can,” says Perez.
But Perez playing football means more to than just a senior football season for Blakely.
Blakely explains, “Last year, in November, I lost my dad. He was a big Harrold supporter. We’re a fan of football. And me and him bonded through football. That’s what we were really close about, was football. So Olivia was kind of devastated, ‘Well you aren’t going to have a team this year, and your dad would want that.’ I guess she played for me and my dad. So I’m grateful for that and blessed because I get to play one more year.”
So here we are…entering week four of the season, and 5 foot 2 Olivia Perez is dressed in purple pads as she takes the gridiron next to five…well…boys…
“It kind of feels normal. They treat me the same, and I wanted that. I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want to be treated like all the other boys. At first they were taking it pretty easy, but coach told them I’d have to see what it felt like, so they’ve pretty much treated me like a teammate,” says Perez.
“I would say she’s kind of the glue that brought it all together. You’ve got to be grateful for her, because with out her, we don’t play. Our season’s over if she doesn’t play,” says Templeton.
The take away: Olivia is adding an extra sport to her schedule, all so her life-long friend can play football to honor his dad.