Friday night light: Meet 130-pound high school varsity linebacker

WILMINGTON, Del. -- The Brandywine Bulldogs in Wilmington, Delaware, have one of the most unlikely football players in America today. And not just because this guy is so little, but because this guy is a girl.

"I knew that I wanted to play football and I knew that I wanted to start on varsity, and nothing stood in the way from it," said senior Felicia Perez.

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Felicia Perez suited up

CBS News

At 4'8", Felicia is one of the shortest kids in her school. And she's not a kicker like many girls who play high school football.

No, coach Isaiah Mays says Felicia came to him with a different position in mind.

"A girl could technically play anything, but most of them don't say they want to play linebacker right away," Mays said.

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Coach Isaiah Mays

CBS News

That's right: linebacker.

"And, you know, it's a physical position and you get hit every play, and she's gotten rocked a couple times but she gets right back up," he said.

Felicia says it's everything she ever dreamed for as long as she can remember -- but it took a while to convince her parents.

"I kind of kept pushing for it. I was like, 'Mom, dad, I really want to play.' And they were like, 'OK, well, let's go sign you up.' And I was like, 'Let's go,'" she said.

"Yeah, they thought I was bluffing," she said. And she called their bluff.

And it wasn't just her parents who were skeptical. When she went to sign up, Felicia was directed, at first, to the cheerleading table. It was the beginning of a lot false assumptions, and some bullying.

"Came to weight training and everybody started laughing," she said.

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Felicia Perez

CBS News

The guys say it was just hard to believe that this little girl could actually contribute.

"It was just like, 'You shouldn't be playing football.' And then, you know, she hit me hard and it was like, 'Alright, maybe she should be playing football,'" said quarterback Jack Russell.

And that was the end of that.

"Yeah, that's not a girl playing, that's a football player," said running back Curtis Blain.

They say no one dare laugh now.

"You gotta protect yours. She's family to us," said wide receiver Zion Carr.

That means standing up for Felicia when the other teams target her, and by all accounts they do target her. She's had more than a handful of broken fingers. And they try to bruise her ego, too, with insults.

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Felicia, wearing 26 in blue, lines up before the snap

CBS News

Why not take the easy way out and not play?

"We never take the easy way out," Felicia said.

Even though she would have avoided all that pain?

"I would have. But would I be here today? No," she said.

Short girl, long view. 

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.