C.J. Weaver Loves Playing Football With the Boys
Constance Weaver is used to hanging out with the boys.
Constance goes by C.J., and she remembers her first time playing football was back in elementary school with her friends.
"At John F. Kennedy Elementary, a bunch of my friends and I, (all of my friends were guys), started playing little pick-up games during recess," says Weaver.
Weaver played with the guys because she didn't have any brothers that played football. Her dad was supportive of her decision to play football, and her mom was a bit hesitant.
"She didn't want me to get hurt or anything," adds Weaver.
Luckily, C.J.'s mom ended up letting her play tackle football.
C.J. admits the way she got signed up for football is kind of crazy.
"I ended up talking to a few of my friends that were part of junior league and a basketball coach. He was a referee for the junior football league and he brought me down there, and I got signed up."
C.J. began playing organized football in the sixth grade, and says at first, it was a bit awkward because boys and girls didn't mix yet.
"It's just sort of awkward cooties (in middle school). Then, at the high school level, I had grown up with the guys. So, it was whatever, especially my senior year. No one even thought of it anymore."
Middle school football wasn't always fun for Weaver. She would get teased on the field because she was a girl.
Yet, amid her frustration, she always stayed positive. Her first big hit came in middle school, and she tells me that it always makes her laugh.
"We had an injury, so I got moved up to the defensive line. There was a kid who was making fun of me across the line and during the game. He would laugh at me or pull my hair, and finally, I was really mad. So, I pushed him over and he ended up spraining his wrist and went home crying."
C.J. wasn't afraid to hit, and she was proving she belonged with the boys on the gridiron. When she got to high school, she wore maroon and yellow for Roosevelt.
For the Rough Riders, C.J. was still picked on, but knew her teammates always had her back.
"I had a couple of teams that had players that wouldn't shake my hands, make rude comments toward me, or I'd get pushed down afterwards. There were some teams that were really bad about that, but my players were always right behind me to catch me or pick me up."
While playing football wasn't always easy, C.J. never gave up on her dream. Weaver says she is believed to be the first girl to play high school football in Sioux Falls.
At Roosevelt, her freshman year was a transition year. She was moved from linebacker to defensive back. In the 10th and 11th grade, she got to play quite a bit on the sophomore and Junior Varsity teams.
As a senior this year, she didn't see as much playing time except for the home games. At 5'1" and 135 pounds, Weaver had to adjust to players in high school finally catching up and surpassing her in size.
One of C.J.'s favorite moments happened a few weeks ago in November when Roosevelt played Lincoln for the 11AAA State Championship in the DakotaDome in Vermillion. The result wasn't favorable, but she shares that it was an awesome opportunity.
"It was crazy loud. I mean we were kind of prepared for it because we won our sophomore year. So, we had that experience behind us, but it's so crazy loud in there having the Lincoln parents right behind us along with our own parents. You cross the 50-yard line and all of sudden you would be attacked by the Lincoln parents!"
Looking back, C.J. will miss the relationships she built with her coaches and teammates.
"I'm sad it's over, but having been there, and being a part of the team, I wouldn't trade that for anything. I liked getting to hang out with everybody, and watching everybody grow up and develop as players."
Those strong, close-knit relationships she built impacted her on the gridiron. She was always treated the same by her coaches and players, and the biggest advice she learned as a female football player was just to be yourself.
"It doesn't matter what other people are saying about me as long as I kind of accept myself as part of the team and that will eventually lead to other players accepting me."
If you are a girl who wants to play football, C.J. recommends starting off in junior football.
"Start out young because it's easier. Then, you will grow up with the boys and you're not just some random girl joining a team."
For C.J., football wasn't everything, either. She participated in power lifting, and track and field until she was injured. In school, she was in band, marching band, and enjoyed anatomy and weight training class.
When she's not playing, she roots for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday's. She hopes to get into the Air Guard after graduating from Roosevelt next May, and then head to Augustana College.