When you watched the 2017 KIPP Houston High School Kerberos football team, you saw a group growing with grit and determination week-by-week.
As the growth occurred both on and off the field, Jasmine Ferrell, a new team member, broke the mold in becoming the first female football player in KIPP Houston High School history.
Having served as a team manager one year earlier, Ferrell’s interest in the sport sparked from attending team practices in 2016.
In her role as manager, she watched positions on the field and began envisioning herself playing.
“I studied the offensive line and d-line,” Ferrell said. “I knew I wasn’t going to run. I was going to be pushing and blocking.”
At one point in the season, she decided to approach Kerberos head coach Rodney Smith with a question.
“I asked him if he wanted any girls on the team,” Ferrell recalled. “He asked if I could kick. I told him, ‘I can do whatever you want me to for the team.’”
A new perspective
Smith acknowledged that initially he was hesitant at the idea of Ferrell playing. His reasoning: he is a father to daughters and also never had coached a girl.
“My approach with her the first month was as if I was dealing with my daughters,” Smith said. “As we progressed, I understood that if I didn’t coach her the way I coach my young men then she wasn’t going to grow as a football player … We wanted her to feel part of the team. We didn’t remove her from drills, we didn’t take reps away from her. We allowed her to grow, and she did her part.”
KIPP Houston senior middle linebacker Steve Facundo said he and fellow members of the team weren’t surprised upon learning Ferrell was joining them on the field. In fact, a majority of them expected it.
“It was different at first,” Facundo said. “But as soon as we saw her in practice, she was tough.”
Facundo said Ferrell made an instant impression when she took down a running back during the Oklahoma drill in an early season practice.
For Ferrell, the moment proved to be a defining one.
Finding her place
“It felt amazing and was the moment where everyone saw me as part of the team,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how hard I hit (the running back) until I heard the reaction from the rest of the team. Someone said, ‘he went easy on you.’ We went again. It was the same thing.”
KIPP Houston High School Athletic Director Sasha Blake was unsure whether the female footballer would have second thoughts after attempting to give the game a shot, but she quickly learned Ferrell was someone who knows what she wants.
“The conversation she and I had last spring and summer was, ‘OK, if you’re going to do it, you do it! You go all in!’ I think this was an opportunity to blaze trails and ultimately she decided it was for her,” Blake said.
With the season now completed, KIPP Houston Public Schools Regional Athletic Director Jeff Feller commended Ferrell.
“At KIPP Houston Public Schools, we encourage all of our students to get involved in athletics," Feller said. "We applaud Jasmine for joining the KIPP Houston High School football team and encourage all student-athletes to always explore and pursue their interests. It is always our goal to provide more opportunities for students and to continue to grow our athletics program."
Ferrell has no regrets and is proud to have spent her senior year trying something new.
“It was an amazing experience, especially with the teammates I had,” Ferrell said. “I tried to be a sponge and soak up all of the information that I could.”