The Chapel Hill soccer player finds her footing in the male-dominated sport
“Football has always been part of me,” she said.
The 17-year-old junior who grew up playing the male-dominated sport, tackling since college, landed his spot last fall as a wide receiver and free safety for the Tigers.
“His ability to play football spoke for itself,” said Issac Marsh, head football coach at Chapel Hill High School.
Marsh said the other players on the team quickly adopted Harker, the first woman to play football for the school, as one of their teammates.
“When they saw how she walked her routes, how she participated in drills, they looked at her the same way as coaches – she’s a football player,” he said.
Harker said she had a hard time convincing her mother, Jennifer, to let her try out for the high school team.
“She said to me, are you sure you don’t want to play field hockey?” Harker called back.
The pride, however, was not contained the night Harker started on defense. Jennifer tweeted a photo of her daughter in her Tiger uniform, with the hashtag Go Gridiron Tigers.
“It’s not so much the size you have, I think it’s more the heart you have,” Harker said. “As corny as it sounds.”
The heart for the game is not something Harker lacks. While her teammates have supported her all season, not everyone has. Negative comments on social media can hurt, but Harker said she tries to use them as motivation.
“I guess being different from the typical footballer there’s a lot more pressure to perform well because I feel like if I make a mistake people will try to blame me for it,” he said. she stated.
Just as she has long admired college footballers Sarah Fuller and Becca Longo, budding young athletes are now looking up to her.
While working at the concession stand at a UNC football game with her CHHS teammates last season, a little girl who dreamed of one day being a quarterback asked Harker for a photo and advices.
“I just told him that you always have to go 110% higher than everyone else because you’re at a disadvantage,” she said. “And I told him to always be coachable because you’ll never know everything about what you’re doing. I just think it’s something that I’ll remember forever. That was definitely the first time I realized that I was making a difference.”
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