By Gary Lloyd
Scan Clay-Chalkville’s roster of 90 or so players, and there is one name that stands out.
Cassie Clayton, No. 37.
She — yes, she — is a senior punter, and her presence as the lone female on the No. 2 football team in Class 6A is not a big deal, not some statement about gender equality. She just wanted to play football.
“I think what you get here is that there’s a kid wanting to be a part of something positive, and the good thing about it is she was on the team, the kids saw her working, and they never checked up,” said fifth-year Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood. “It was just like, ‘Cassie’s a part of the team.’”
It started this spring. For no reason other than it just “popping” into her head one day, Clayton decided she wanted to play. She asked Hood if she could play, and he was all for providing an opportunity. She tried out and made the team.
“I felt relieved (to make the team),” said Clayton, who had been a sideline trainer since her freshman year.
She’s grown up on Alabama and Clay-Chalkville football. Her mom, an avid Crimson Tide fan, brought Clayton to Clay-Chalkville games when she was a baby. She grew up good friends with Robert Greene, a 2012 Clay-Chalkville graduate and All-State performer who is one of the most accurate kickers in the school’s history. Clayton has played soccer since she was 5 and is the varsity girls’ soccer team’s goalie. She attended summer workouts before this season.
“She does a good job,” Hood said. “She practices to get better every day.”
Clayton is a backup punter, behind senior Hayden Moore, also the team’s quarterback. Clayton punted a couple times for an average between 32 and 35 yards in the Cougar Kickoff Classic on Aug. 17. One punt was downed at the 5-yard line.
“I believe that having a girl on the team sets us apart from other teams, and I like that,” Moore said. “She does everything that we do and wants to be a part of the team, so she is.”
Hood said Clayton dresses in a separate room from the locker room. He instructed his players one time to watch their language, and he said there have been no issues. Hood has never coached a female player.
“I have two daughters, and I love them dearly, and if they wanted to play football, I sure hope the coach would let them,” Hood said.
Clayton said being on the team can be frustrating sometimes because she doesn’t hear some of the things said in the locker room while she dresses out in a separate room. The experience, however, has been positive.
“They’ve been very accepting of me,” said Clayton, who said her parents are “all for” her being on the team. “It can be overwhelming, but overall it’s very exciting and very fun.”
Hood said that when Clayton approached him about the possibility of playing, he told her to grab a helmet.
“She wanted to be on the team, and we celebrate that,” he said.
Clayton is a member of a team that is likely a top contender for the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A state championship.
“I love the team, and I love being a part of it,” she said. “It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.