Reilly Fox’s inspiring football debut with the Paschal Panthers started murmurings on social media that there had been other female athletes who had played football in FWISD prior to Fox.
But tracking down these pioneers wasn’t easy. The FWISD Athletic Department had no recollection of her playing football, nor did her own alma mater Paschal.
Finally, one of Sarah’s classmates reached out to me directly with her correct name – Sarah Anders – so that I could make contact and get the real story.
When Sarah Anders played offensive guard and defensive end for Paschal in 1998 and 1999, there was little fan-fare, recognition, or accolades that came her way.
According to Anders and others, the only media coverage she received was an article in the school newspaper, the Pantherette, published in 1998 when she played on Paschal’s JV team. Sarah Anders’ story went virtually unnoticed for over 16 years.
So, here is the story that you should have heard all those years ago, the untold story of No. 85 – Sarah Anders.
“I understand, sometimes things get lost over time,” Anders says. “I did play [junior varsity] and varsity football at Paschal. Although, varsity was only for a short period of time. I had to step away for personal reasons after the first game.” She went on to graduate from R. L. Paschal in 2000.
Anders always had a passion for football and first tried out for the middle school team during her years at Rosemont Middle School. It was not a good experience as she recalls, “I was picked on and made fun of for trying out.” She chose to join the cheerleading squad at Rosemont instead, just to be close to the field, but it was not her thing. Anders says, “I gave up on football for a few years until I worked up enough courage to endure the two day try-out process my junior year at Paschal in 1998.”
“People viewed things differently back then, but the coaches were at least willing give me the chance,” she says. “I told them that if I felt like I couldn’t take the hits in practice, I would stop. They didn’t expect me to keep jumping back up when I got hit, but they were impressed with my determination.” Sarah succeeded and held her own in the two day try-outs so she stuck with it, and had a lot of game time that season.
Most of her teammates did not welcome her with open arms at first, they did not want a girl on the team, Anders says. “Once they saw what I could do and I had earned their respect, they did welcomed me as a team member,” she says.
Sarah is not bitter about being forgotten. To the contrary, she is supportive of Fox and hopes Paschal’s newest kicker enjoys the spotlight that she never received.
“I read the your story about Reilly Fox last week and how open Coach Miracle was to giving her the opportunity. I was so excited to see it. I am so happy for her,” Anders says.
But, when Anders realized her own story of being the first female lineman in FWISD history was missing from the coverage, she wanted a chance to set the record straight.
“It was a big accomplishment to be a female lineman. But, to be accurate, Reilly is the first female player to earn her spot on a varsity team at Paschal,” she says. “I was moved up to varsity my senior year, because all the seniors played on the varsity team. And, I only played one down in the fourth quarter of the first game that season in 1999, before I was forced to stop playing football for personal reasons.”
Assistant Director of Athletics for Fort Worth ISD Dean Pritchett took note of the delayed recognition for athletes like Anders.
“Thank you again for your research and articles,” he said. “We are now able to recognize athletes like Amanda Buck, who lettered in football as a kicker on the Southwest High School varsity team, Sarah Anders who played jv football at Paschal and we are also aware of another female athlete who played jv football at Carter Riverside High School as well.”
“Because of athletes like these, players and coaches have accepted the fact that girls are able to play football and that the sport is not just for boys and men,” Pritchett says. “They are great examples of how all players contribute to the success of a team and a program. Fort Worth ISD Athletics is very proud of the contributions that female athletes have made in what is traditionally known as a boys sport. We are also very proud of our coaching staffs who are willing to recognize the fact that females can be important members of the team and can be successful on the field.”
Anders actually considered playing football in college, but did not follow through on that dream. “I want to see the first female NFL player someday soon,” she says. Anders is studying psychology at Tarrant County College now, with the hope to transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington and complete her degree. Her ten-year goal is to have her Masters and PhD by then, so she can counsel battered women and abused children.
“After playing football in high school, I had an overflow of confidence,” Anders says. “I believed I could do anything. If I could take those hits…nothing could stop me. I am going to be following Reilly Fox’s progress closely. She seems like a great kid with a lot of talent. I am looking forward to attending one of her games soon. All I can say is – go get ’em girl!”