College football player tackles her critics
By Keri Luise
As a kid, Alyssa Linkous would head straight to the backyard as soon as she got home from school so she could play football with her dad and brothers. These casual games grew into a passion for Linkous and playing football became all she wanted to do.
Linkous, now 19, started playing football in Dunkirk with the Calvert Youth Flag Football League from age 8 until she turned 17, under the coaching of her stepfather, Nick Ferguson.
“I continued to play … as I got older I started going to tournaments,” Linkous says. “Playing in these tournaments I was the only girl on the team and only played against boys … At one point I was the only girl in the entire league.”
According to Linkous’ mom, Nadreen Ferguson, not enough girls had signed up for the Calvert League to make an all-girls team.
“She played on the all-boys team and outworked and outshined most of the boys in the league,” Nadreen says. “Everyone was so excited to see a girl beating up on the guys, that people would constantly approach her and tell her how awesome she is and to keep up the hard work.”
Being the only girl in the Calvert County league did present challenges for Linkous but also motivated her to keep pushing forward.
“Being the only girl was hard at first. I felt like sometimes I wasn’t allowed to be playing on the team, but it didn’t stop me,” Linkous says. “I started falling in love with the game so I started shutting out what everyone else thought … A lot of players and some coaches would make comments about a girl playing football. I never saw anything wrong with it.”
Linkous says she has faced challenges of males telling her she’s “not good enough or strong enough to play this sport.”
“Being a female involved in football wasn’t easy, it still isn’t easy. But it’s definitely motivated me to never stop being the person I am,” Linkous says. “Just because some people think football is a male sport doesn’t mean a thing. It’s made me push myself because I was doubted by a lot of people. Being doubted only gave me more of a push to become the person I am today.”
From powderpuff games at Northern High School to pro bowl games, Linkous has pushed to play football at every opportunity she gets. She played for the New York Staten Island Giants all-girls travel football team for two years before entering college.
“I played on a pro bowl team with Coach Mark Stubbs. I’ve played on my dad’s team in the Calvert flag league. I played with Coach Mike Colt and Coach James Mazziotta. I played with D4 as well—an adult league with [Hall of Fame quarterback] Charlie McCaffrey,” Linkous says.
Her passion and work paid off: Linkous was awarded a flag football scholarship at Ottawa University in Kansas under the coaching of Liz Sowers. “At the time I didn’t think It was possible,” Linkous says. “She told me she would offer me a scholarship [and] it felt even more unreal.”
“We need to have more women getting even more flag scholarships in college so when that 10-year-old girl is looking up and wondering, ‘What can I do and what do I want to be when I get older?’ She has the opportunity to do and be whatever she wants,” Sowers says.
According to Ferguson, Linkous is currently number one at Ottawa University in receiving yards and touchdowns. “She has set the bar high for the younger generations of females and is still going,” Ferguson says.
Linkous hopes to become a well-known football player and continue to play until she can’t anymore, eventually becoming a coach and “help other little girls live out their dreams.”
“I would tell any girl playing any sport, especially football, to never stop pushing yourself. Always keep your head up when all seems to fail,” Linkous says. “Most importantly, be you, do you, for you. Don’t let a male change the way you feel about a sport.”