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Southeast High School football "all in" on Iliana Silva

Pictured here is Iliana Silva, who is a sophomore kicker for the Southeast Spartans. (KOKH)

Southeast High School head football coach Kenny Blair didn’t hesitate when he was approached by a student who wanted to play football.

“I said sure, if you want to play, I would be more than happy to have you out,” Blair said.

Iliana Silva plays football for the Spartans. Yes, she’s a girl.

“I wasn’t sure anyone would support me,” Silva said. “I wasn’t sure my family would support me, because I’m a girl and they didn’t want me to get hurt.”

Iliana, who also plays soccer, fell in love with football when she was 8-years-old. Last May, she finally mustered up the courage to talk with the coaches.

“When she actually approached me it was weird, because I sent her to another coach thinking she was signing up to be a manager,” Southeast Offensive Coordinator Phillip Vargyas said.

Blair said he at first thought Silva was joking when she asked to be on the team. Silva recalls that first day of practice being extremely nerve wracking.

“I was like, ‘this is my first day, I’m scared. I’m joining football. What did I do’?" Silva said.

Blair thought Silva was going to kick her shoe off on the first day. He says that once she got her footing down everything else came around quickly for her. What’s been positive is the support Iliana has received from the coaching staff and her teammates.

“Basically, she fits right in,” said Spartans linebacker Greg Holley. “She has a lot of friends, the offensive line, they’re always with her.”

Senior running back D’Marcus Hooks applauds her work ethic.

“She’s over there kicking 100 percent the whole time. She doesn’t stop so why should I?” Hooks said.

Silva sees the team as a family.

“They don’t put me out individually like, ‘Oh you’re a girl, so we can’t do this or that.’” Silva said.

Iliana is a sophomore and plans on playing football throughout high school. By the time she’s a senior, she hopes to be on the field for not only extra points, but kickoffs, punts and field goals.

On this team, Iliana isn’t a “girl who plays with the boys.” She’s a football player. Period.

Her advice to other young women: Go after what you want.

“It’s going to be tough at first but you’re going to get respected by everyone. You may be criticized by some people but in the end you gotta realize this is what you wanted to do. Don’t let other people tell you what to do and what not to do.”

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