Monday, September 30, 2013
You’ve heard of girls playing football. Caroline Cashion is a kicker on the West Ashley football team, for example. It’s rare, but not impossible.
Remember this name: Maddie Schwarz. She isn’t a kicker. She wants to tackle, fight for position and force turnovers. Maddie is a 12-year-old girl playing cornerback for the Christ Our King football team.
“You’re watching these boys play, and then you see a ponytail,” a team parent fondly said.
“She is the first girl that I have ever coached,” coach Ric Biggers said, “hence, her jersey No. 1.”
The Schwarz family, which includes four children born within 20 months, moved to Charleston last year from the San Francisco Bay Area for a “slower pace of life,” father Anton Schwarz said.
“Tackle football has truly been her first love where she started in 2011 as a defensive end for the Marin Broncos,” Schwarz said. Maddie has been playing football since the second grade, when she would get to school early and leave late so she could play among the boys.
Her strengths reside in athletics. Schwarz said she was a member of the Bay Area championship Little League baseball team, where “she broke her arm in the championship game but refused to leave the field.” She was also the only girl on the Marin Highlanders – in California – rugby team, and she recently was a ball girl for the Canada/USA rugby qualifier at Blackbaud Stadium. Maddie has also played on a travel lacrosse team and basketball team.
She’s had this resilience from Day One – literally. Today, Maddie is fighting the opposing team’s wide receivers for position. Twelve years ago, she was fighting for her life.
“When her mother, Deb, was pregnant with triplets, the doctors said that only two of the triplets would make it, as the third one was too small to survive given a bad cord placement,” Schwarz said. But, Maddie, also known as “Peanut,” defied the doctors.
She was born six weeks early and weighed only three pounds, but “she very quickly made it out of the NICU,” Schwarz added. Her sister, Alex, is an avid fisherman and bass player and her brother, Ben, is a competitive gymnast and state vault champion in California and South Carolina.
Maddie also has an older sister, Katie, who is a freshman cheerleader at Bishop England. Although her brother and sisters aren’t as immersed in football as Maddie, the game has been a large part of the extended family. Mark Kelso, a former captain of the Buffalo Bills, is a relative.
Kelso enjoyed an eight-year career in the NFL – all with the Bills – and made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1991-94. Like Maddie’s current cornerback position, Kelso also played in the defensive secondary as a safety. He finished with career statistics of 30 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.
Schwarz said Maddie’s anticipation and tackling skills benefit from not only practice on the football field but also in her rugby training. Earlier this season, an opposing coach was heard telling one of his wide receivers: “You just got your butt tackled by a future supermodel.”
Biggers admitted he was surprised by Maddie’s abilities. During an August scrimmage against Rock Hill, Biggers said Rock Hill thought they could take advantage of Maddie by throwing a deep pass to the receiver she was covering.
“Maddie made a big-time play and ran the Rock Hill player down,” Biggers said, “saving a touchdown and not allowing Rock Hill to score against us in a game-like scrimmage.
“Maddie works just as hard as everyone on our team, and she never quits. I am very proud to have the opportunity to coach her.”