Arnold breaking stereotypes on gridiron
By TJ MAXWELL
Just like most athletes that play football growing up, a Copperas Cove Junior High eighth-grader, has dreams of the National Football League.
The biggest difference for this particular eighth-grader is her gender.
Alyssa Arnold, a female, plays starting left guard for the Copperas Cove Bull Pups and also plays both ways as a defensive lineman or linebacker.
She developed the love for the game from her father, Tank Arnold, and her two brothers.
“I just wanted to try it because I saw everybody else do it,” said Alyssa. “I wanted to try it because my dad played and my two brothers.”
Alyssa decided she wanted to play football two summers ago when playing outside with her dad.
“I was playing around with my dad and I told him I wanted to play football and that I was better than him,” she said jokingly. “One day, he actually asked if I wanted to play. I got a friend’s advice and they said I should try so I went inside. I was so nervous but I told him I wanted to play.”
Assistant coach Josh Jefferson reflected on when he first met Alyssa and how impressed he was with the then incoming seventh-grader.
“I remember when I saw her out here during summer football I was like, ‘Wow,’ I did not expect a girl to come out and play,” said Jefferson. “After that first week of summer football, I was like, ‘We have something here.’”
Alyssa’s mom, Sally Arnold, is like many parents of football players. She’s proud of her child’s accomplishments but trepidatious about her playing such a physical sport, especially after suffering a season-ending injury last year.
“I’m very excited to see her play,” said Sally. “She amazes me every day in practice and in the games. She inspires me daily to be a better person. She goes above and beyond on everything.
“I’m nervous because of the injury she had last year so every game I’m hoping she doesn’t get hurt again.”
Alyssa went down with a knee injury just two games into her career. She wasn’t going to let the injury defeat her though. She worked hard to get back and earned a starting spot on the team this year.
“I just wanted to finish a season and play with all of my friends,” she said. “They all support me. They think of me as their sister. They don’t do anything different. I’m just one of their teammates.”
The evidence of that support was obvious. As the interview went on, more and more players gathered around to see their teammate in the spotlight.
Jefferson was impressed with Alyssa’s fight to get back to her team.
“That second game last year when she hurt her knee, that was a huge blow for the team,” said Jefferson. “She went through rehab and worked hard to get back. Once she came back this year, we knew she would be a huge asset to our team again and she has been – both defensively and offensively.”
One of the biggest contributions Alyssa offers is in the classroom, said Jefferson.
“We talk about her as a football player, but I want to talk about her as a student in my classroom,” he said. “She is an excellent student and she is a driving force for our kids to step their game up in the classroom as well.
“In my tutorials, she was one of the main ones coming in everyday and once she was in there, others were coming in. She is a big motivation for our kids. It’s great to have her here.”
Sally is glad her daughter is getting so much support from her teammates and is awed by Alyssa’s intestinal fortitude.
“Her teammates are awesome and it feels great,” she said. Without her teammates she wouldn’t be anything but it amazes me that she’s a girl and prospers in this male sport.”
Alyssa hopes she can continue to play the sport she’s grown to love. She knows that road is a tough one, but is willing to give it her all.
“If I can, I want to play all through high school and try to be the first girl in the NFL,” she said. “I’m going to try.”
Alyssa suffered a bit of a set back physically in Tuesday’s game against Temple Bonham but don’t be surprised if you see the name Arnold on a freshman roster next year as her confidence is high.
“When I first got on the field I was nervous,” she said. “But everybody inspired me to keep playing and have confidence.”