Erin DiMeglio is like a lot of teenage girls. She attends high school, babysits in her free time and has to do chores around the house. When it comes to sports though, Erin is a bit different. She recently became the first female quarterback in Florida history. Now, that’s pretty tough!
The New York Times reports that on Friday night’s season opener, DiMeglio, took two snaps in the Paladins’ 31-14 season-opening victory against Nova High, handing the ball off both times. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except the quarterback was a she. With time ticking down in the fourth quarter the third-stringer from South Plantation High School checked in with about 1:40 left in the game.
While no official records are kept on what positions girls have played on other Florida high school teams – about 500 girls have suited up for boys’ squads across the state over the years – DiMeglio is presumed to be the first female quarterback to play an official game. There have been female kickers, receivers, defensive backs and even an offensive lineman, but never a girl in football’s most high-profile position.
“I just do my own thing,” DiMeglio said after the game, as about a dozen reporters and cameras surrounded her. “It’s a lot of attention, but I just kind of don’t worry about that much.”
Fans were chanting “Put Erin in! Put Erin in!” during the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Two quarterbacks played ahead of her but the loudest ovation of the night came when the 17 year-old DiMeglio ran into the huddle – her ponytail visible beneath her helmet.
“God bless her,” South Plantation coach Doug Gatewood said. “She handles it better than anybody else. She goes on the field, she has single-minded focus. It’s crazy. It’s great publicity for the school, it’s a positive thing, but at the end of the day that’s not why we did it. We did it because she’s a legitimate third-string quarterback.”
Gatewood, who is also the flag football coach at South Plantation, urged DiMeglio to work out with the boys’ varsity last spring, saying she had a good enough arm to compete. Gatewood eventually convinced her parents, Tom and Kathleen (who met at a Miami Dolphins game), that the potential positives outweighed any risks and she tried out for the team. DiMeglio’s father taught her to throw a football and when she was in the fourth grade, she joined a flag football league where most the players were boys.
Since making the squad, DeMeglio’s teammates have fully supported her. And DiMeglio has won them over with her skills including throwing five touchdown passes in a 7-on-7 tournament against boys this summer. The 5-foot-5, 140-pound player is also a star guard for her high school basketball team and is getting interest from Division III schools. Her physical play in basketball helped convince her parents she could handle the gridiron. She’s already overcome a broken nose, a broken finger, and concussions.
On a typical day, DiMeglio gets up at 6 a.m., is out the door by 7:15 for high school, over to nearby Broward College — where she’s taking 12 credits this fall, after earning 15 last year, meaning she’ll be a college sophomore before long — around midday, back to high school for football practice, and home at 8:30 p.m. Homework until 10:30. Then sleep.
She may not have thrown any passes on Friday night. But with her team up big in the final moments, she did what was necessary.
“It was exciting,” said DiMeglio’s sister, Amy DiMeglio, who was on the sideline with her parents. “I think any exposure during the game is good. You saw how the crowd reacted. People are getting more comfortable with the idea. Some people blog about her and there’s negative comments, some inappropriate comments. People need to get over her being a girl and just look at her abilities. That’s what she wants.”
At the end of the day, DiMeglio wants to prove her mettle on the playing field – and it looks like she’s off to a good start.