updated 09/04/2012 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/04/2012 AT 4:00 PM ET
Erin DiMeglio may be a third-string quarterback but she’s garnered as much attention as any star athlete.
The 17-year-old senior at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla., is making waves as a female quarterback on an all-male football team, the New York Times reports.
At 5-feet-5-inches and 140 lbs., DiMeglio doesn’t fit the build of a typical football player, especially at her high school where many of her teammates will pursue athletics in college.
DiMeglio’s father, Tom, taught her to throw a football when she was a young girl. In the fourth grade, she joined a flag football league where all the players but four were boys.
When she was a freshman, DiMeglio became quarterback of the girls’ flag football team.
“She’ll get upset because the girls can’t catch her ball because she throws too hard,” said Coach Doug Gatewood. “For the most part, she’ll drill them in the hands and it’ll fall off. She can pretty much wing a girls’ football wherever she wants to put it.”
Last spring, Gatewood, who also coaches the boys team, invited DiMeglio to practice with his team at an off-season workout. DiMeglio quickly adjusted to the bigger football and asked to return the next day.
“I said, ‘Sure, but you’re not playing,’ ” Gatewood said. “She wore me down and she wore her parents down.”
While her parents worried about seeing their daughter get tackled, DiMeglio, who was also the star point guard for her school’s girls’ basketball team, reminded them she had suffered a broken nose, a torn labrum, dislocated fingers and a concussion.
“We kind of realized she’ll actually be protected with a helmet and shoulder pads,” DiMeglio’s mother, Kathleen, said.
After proving herself in spring and summer workouts, DiMeglio officially joined the team. She changes in the girls’ locker room, but is otherwise seen as one of the guys.
Everybody says, What happens when she gets hit? Gatewood said. This isn t a knock on Erin, but she s bigger than 10 kids on my team. I have a wide receiver that weighs 25 pounds less than her. And the pads she wears are the same as the pads he wears.
Gatewood has told DiMeglio that she might not see any action this season. The chances of her entering a game are slim, South Plantation will probably have a sizable lead and be trying to run out the clock.
But it doesn’t seem to faze DiMeglio.
“My friends all think I’m crazy,” she said. “But they also think it’s pretty cool.”