New Jersey

‘Everybody Said I Couldn't': Meet Young Running Back Who Scored 1st TD on Thanksgiving

"I would like to say to other women…if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough," East Orange High Schoo senior Jessica Felix said

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A New Jersey high school girl is busting through barriers as a running back for her school football team. Pat Battle reports.

A New Jersey high school football player scored her first touchdown on Thanksgiving, showing every one of her naysayers on what it means to "play like a girl."

Jessica Felix was the second girl to join the varsity football team at East Orange High School, and she's just one of approximately 45 young women who are on a high school team --- compared to 22,000 boys. The MVP and described the moment as "powerful."

"It was powerful for me. It was amazing. I'd just like to thank my brothers," the senior told News 4.

During the game against century-long rival Barringer High School of Newark, the undefeated East Orange Jaguars got hit hard, twice, before the team made adjustments that sent Felix into the end zone. It was something some of her teammates didn't think they'd see when she made the team as a junior.

"For me, I didn't think she was gonna really last in the sport but as time goes, I see her work in the field. I see she started to be one of our brothers," said teammate Moungue Nyame.

While Felix is the second girl to play on the team, she became the first to score and earned her teammate's respect. Overcoming others' expectations, or lack thereof, is what drove her.

"That's what really pushed me," she said. "Everybody said I couldn't. Everybody just expects less from me and I expect more. I expect more from myself."

"I don't want them to treat me like I'm a girl. I want them to treat me like I'm a brother, I'm a brother to them," Felix added.

East Orange High School football head coach Rae Oliver says the change starts with leveling the playing field for girls and women.

"I think it starts with being ingratiating enough that we don't look at it as a male sport, it's a sport," Oliver said. "If you're tough enough or have the mental accuracy to really do it, then fine. Jessica performed that way. She never missed a day in the weight room. She never missed a workout. She goes to class when she's supposed to be there."

Felix earned straight A's while participating on the football team, cheerleading, wrestling and dancing --- but outside of her extracurricular activities, the high schooler described herself as a "girly girl."

Monique Munford, who runs football leagues all year long, says Felix is a sweetheart and more.

"She's determined. She's a go-getter. She doesn't stop. She's competitive. She's my sweetheart," Munford said.

As for the Thanksgiving Day game, the East Orange Jaguars went 49-0 but Felix didn't play clean up. She was on the gridiron early on and was named the game's most valuable player. "I wanted her not to feel like it was a gift. She earned it," Oliver said.

"She's not just speaking for women in general. She's speaking for winners…that you don't hold yourself back. As long as you're given an opportunity, that's all she wanted," the coach added.

The Jaguars will play the regional final game on Sunday. Then for Felix, it's off to college. Her goal is to be in the National Football League, whether to play for a team like the LA Rams or help run and manage one, we'll just have to see.

"I would like to say to other women…if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough," Felix said.

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