Aniya Clay has participated in just about every sport there is at Huntington Middle School. She has cheered, run track, and played soccer and basketball.
This year she is a member of the football team.
The eighth-grader said it was while cheering last year for the Hawks that she was inspired to play football, typically a male-dominated sport.
I just loved how the crowd roared when Trayvon Willis tackled his opponent or made touchdowns, Aniya said. I wanted the crowd to cheer for me as well.
She first approached Coach Robert Beers, who told her to have her mother sign a permission slip.
Akiya Clay, Aniyas mother, said she had enrolled her children in the Warner Robins Recreation Departments sports program where they participated in everything offered.
When she was 5, she asked if she could play football, but she was just too little, said Akiya Clay. When she came to me about this, I think she thought she would get that same answer -- wait until you have some size.
But her mom signed the permission slip.
She wants to do it, and I have always tried to encourage my kids as long as they are doing something positive, she said.
The most frequent question Aniya is asked about being on the football team is whether or not she is scared to get hit.
The answer is no.
If I get tackled, I just get back up and keep moving on, she said.
Inspired by the crowd, Aniya now wants to serve as an inspiration for other girls.
My advice is to never let anyone talk you down from what you want to do, she said. You have to take risks and go for the things you want.
She took the field in Huntington Middles first game against Feagin Mill last week at defensive back.
When I was running track last year, I tried to run faster and faster so that I could play football. You have to work for what you want, she said.
Her schoolmates and teammates have all been accepting of her, but Aniya said she has run into just one problem.
Sometimes the boys say that they dont want to hit me because I am a girl, she said. I say to them, Go ahead and hit me. I will hit you right back.
Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or email@example.com.