Sequoia Charter School senior Lily Godwin

Sequoia Charter School senior Lily Godwin is the starting linebacker and running back for the Stallions football team, Monday, October 25, 2021, at Sequoia Charter School in Mesa, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Lily Godwin is taking the obsolete insult, “running like a girl,” literally. And many would say it’s a strength of hers. 

She also happens to tackle like a girl, as on any given Friday night the Sequoia Charter School senior suits up at both linebacker and running back.

Women entering the historically male-dominated sport of football has happened a few times. Most recently in 2020, with a student-athlete at Vanderbilt, Sarah Fuller, kicking for the Power Five university. 

The blood on Godwin’s jersey from the week prior was all the confirmation needed: she likes to get in on all of the action.

If the stained jersey was not proof enough, the leadership around the Stallion football team has no problem promoting the kind of women and athlete they think they have in Godwin.

Jevon Lewis has been the principal of Sequoia since Godwin was in seventh grade, more than 5 years ago. Even in middle school, she was driven to accomplish anything available to her, such as college scholarships.

“She was in seventh grade in my office asking me how can I get a scholarship to go to college. I told her to just continue getting A’s and B’s,” Lewis said. “She’s a senior now, and she did that.”

Not only was Godwin upfront about her academic goals, but she also made it known that she wanted to see what athletic opportunities there were.

“We had a coach in middle school who wanted to start up a tackle football program,” Godwin said. “We didn’t get it that year, but the following year we were able to get flag.”

She immediately joined the movement to start football at Sequoia and enjoyed flag football until her sophomore year, when the Stallions had their first season of contact football.

Godwin has a lot of competitive spirit, that is clear to anyone who meets her. And to find out where it might have stemmed from, one has to look at her family life. 

“I grew up with three younger siblings and all of them are boys,” Godwin said, before adding why she enjoys football. “I get to tackle people and hurt people without getting in trouble.”

The inspiration to play football may not be that far off from why her teammates started a sport that involved a certain level of physicality. 

This thought process makes what she has accomplished so impressive. Godwin wants to be out there for no other reason other than she loves the outlet this game gives her.

Back when it all started, her dad was there to motivate her and show his daughter the game he loved so much too.

“At first, my dad was really happy,” Godwin said. “During the off-season he would help me train, and that helped me understand the basics of football. Certain things went over my head at first. Even now, I have to think, ‘what’s that route again?’ But now I watch football and I notice things I didn’t before. Now it makes sense.” 

There is nothing different about how coach Daniel Cardiel treats her compared to the guys on the team, the only separation whatsoever just happens to be what locker room they get dressed in before the game. 

“At first, I thought, ‘OK, she’s probably a kicker or something like that,’ but I asked her for her positions, and she said linebacker and running back,” Cardiel said. “Then you look at her physique and you think alright let’s see what she can do. We got into practice, and she could hit. Even in the weight room, she could out life some of the other players.”

When the whistle blows, Godwin just becomes another player on Cardiel’s team, who can make plays to win games. The football knowledge is obvious, and her coach trusts her ability to set up the defense. 

She has a brain for the game and just wants to win. In the middle of the defense as a linebacker, Godwin knows her coverage and sometimes even her teammates. They trust her a lot, even voting her as a team captain. That shows she fits in easily with the team chemistry, too.

One of the more important aspects of any team is the bond the teammates make with each other, and Godwin does not lack the social skills needed.

“The one thing I’ve noticed about the boys is that they always make jokes, they never stop and never will stop,” she said. “Now even I make jokes and we really just have a good time with it.”

The only part about being a girl on the team that can get on her nerves is the novelty it seems to have, as people can be awkward while talking to them. 

“When someone addresses the team and they say, ‘hey fellas and lady,’ that kind of separation can be irritating,” Godwin said.

Godwin is equal when looked at in every other setting, whether that be in the classroom, the weight room or the football field. That makes her a good example for everyone that watches her put in hard work.

“She is a role model in the classroom, tutoring some of her teammates,” Cardiel said. “But also, on the field too, with other female athletes at the high school level that want to play football and think yeah, I can only be a kicker. No, you don’t have to be a kicker, you can always be a linebacker or running back just like Lily is.”

What the team captain has done as a student and athlete is inspiring, but the exciting possibility is who she may inspire.

She paves the way for others. She also blasts through stereotypes in the sports world by herself.

“She has proven herself to be able to compete with anyone,” Lewis said. “I have never been worried about Lily going out there and getting hurt, especially because she is one who can go out and hurt.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

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