kenbates2

First female makes the football team

Published: March 23, 2010

By: Kendra Bates

Watching your son play in his first football game can be a bit frightening for a parent.  While it may be the most exciting day of his life, a parent may ask why did I let my son play one of the roughest sports. Like most football practices, the day starts off intense and ends full of sweaty men. But at Suitland High School, located in Suitland, Maryland it was a very different year. Unlike other  schools, Suitland was the first high school in Maryland to ever have a female on the team.

It began as a typical day for Heather Langdon, who was a junior at Suitland. She went to cross-country practice at 4 p.m. everyday after school and then afterwards went to watch the football team practice. Langdon was known for being one of the fastest girls on the track team, but no one had any idea about what she was about to do. After every cross-country practice she would go to the team practice and brag to the boys about how good of a kick she had.

“I played soccer for 8 years and I bet I can kick better than every last one of you guys,” Langdon said.

They laughed and never took her seriously. But, Suitland’s head coach soon asked Langdon to come prove her abilities on the field. It was late September with only one week before the fall football season. Coach Lynch was eager to see Langdon kick, especially because he was desperate for a punter.

“It was a coincidence that Coach Lynch was looking for a punter, but I know he didn’t expect a girl to try out,” Langdon said.

Langdon kept her track shoes on and, then she took the field. The first couple of kicks she missed, but after she warmed up it was evident that she had potential. She described the reaction of the players as  “stunned”. expression. Daryl Brewton, who was the team’s wide receiver, was the most amazed at Langdon’s talent.

“I knew Heather was amazingly talented in track, but I never expected her to come on the field and kick like that,” Brewton said.

Suitland’s record at the time was 5-4 and they had a consistent reputation of having one of the best football teams in Prince Georges County. Following the practice, Coach Lynch asked her if she would like to join the team. For Langdon, the decision was not an easy one. She wondered how she was going to juggle running cross-country and indoor track along with football. She also thought about how she would tell her mom the news.

“I remember that night my mom picked me up from practice and I said mom I made the football team. She didn’t believe me at first until Coach lynch came to my moms car and shared the news with her. After he left that’s when she realized that I was serious,” Langdon said.

“I knew if I said no that she would never forgive me,” Joan Langdon said.

Suitland plays its rival team

The season had begun and she was able to punt the football in every single game. One game in particular that stood out was a game against Suitland’s rival team, Largo High School. Largo was also another known school for having one of the best records and they had a 5-4 record too. Every away game it was expected that the football team dress professionally and represent Suitland well.

“The entire team stared me down as we walked in the locker room and it was even more awkward because I was a female and had a dress on,” Langdon said.

As the game  approached, everyone around could feel the excitement mounting. The field was already freshly chalked at each yard line. Loud music was blaring from the big speakers and there was an official announcer walking up and down the field with a cordless microphone. The Suitland-Largo game was  intense and the score went back and forth. Langdon had scored the winning kick after a long fourth quarter of a tied game of 21 to 21. The scoreboard ended with Suitland, 24 points and Largo, 21 points.

Ernest Jackson was Largo’s quarterback and after that game, he was already upset that his team lost, but even more upset that the winning punt was scored by a girl.

“I heard that Suitland had recruited a girl to the team so I figured she would be good if Suitland allowed her to be on the team,” Ernest Jackson said.

It was apparent that Suitland had a different kind of team than other schools. A team where they welcomed a girl with open arms and with such confidence in her. Langdon expected the reactions and responses from people to be negative, but fortunately they were quite positive. When she took the field, she heard nothing but loud cheers surrounding her.

“I received no special treatment from my coaches and was treated just like the boys. When I missed the first couple of kicks at try-outs, I think the boys expected me to suck. Once the rest of my kicks made it into the field goal that’s when the boys were eager to see me play in an actual game,” Langdon said.

Langdon attends McDaniel College kicking camp

After Suitland’s outstanding season, Langdon went on to play another season. This time Langdon attended a kicking camp at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.

“It was a long week in store for me and surprisingly I was not the only girl who attended the camp. There was one other girl but I have to admit she sucked!” Langdon said.

Langdon was eager to know that she had some competition when she first saw the other girl, but after seeing her play she was let down. During that week long summer camp, Langdon managed to kick her longest kick, 43 yards. That was big to not only Langdon but the coaching staff too. The camp must have done her justice as Suitland entered the play-offs her second season.

The next season, Suitland made it to the play-offs but lost in the first round. Langdon was able to tell everyone that she was the first female football player in the county, not to mention the first female player in the state to ever play in any play-off games.

“I don’t know if I can take the credit for Suitland making it to the play-offs, but I can give credit to the kicking camp. It really paid off and was a great experience,” Langdon said.

Football is known to be such an intense and forceful sport. Associating women and football is quite unusual especially when you picture a woman getting tackled.

“Even with all the padding and equipment, I still get nervous when Heather steps on the field,” Langdon said.

“It was funny because Coach Lynch was so desperate to find a punter that he started looking for boys on the soccer team. He told me that no one on the soccer team came close to what he was looking for but I know he never expected a girl to try out,” Brewton said.

Langdon makes school history

Unfortunately it was Langdon’s senior year and the boys had to loose what they called “a miracle”. What started out as a joke to the team ended up being one of the team’s best assets. The team was very excepting and the boys treated her as if she was their sister.

“As much as I hated Suitland I knew that if they had a girl on the team then she must be a force on the field,” Jackson said.

Langdon learned a lot of technique and each season she got better. It is not often that you see a girl take the football field and she is actually good at playing. For Suitland, they got the chance to have a girl as apart of the team for two years. No other school can share the same story. All the attention went to Langdon, but for her it was good attention. The next season after Langdon graduated, another girl tried out for the team in hopes of becoming the next Heather Langdon.

Langdon still thinks about the day she was asked to play for the team. One of her most memorable accomplishments is kicking her longest kick at football camp. She hopes that her story will encourage other girls to try out.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t kick 43 yards in any game, but then again what other girl can kick 43 yards anyway. I challenge the next girl, if there’s any,” Langdon said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: