GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) — In 2014, Rachel Eaves was surprising people just by being a girl on the football team. One year later — and she’s not just taller and stronger — she’s hitting harder than ever.
Rachel: ‘My stepdad was like, ‘you should try out for cheerleading,’ and I was like….no!’” said Rachel Eaves, who is a linebacker for the Columbia Middle School Raiders.
“She tackled me and that’s when I noticed that she was a girl,” said teammate Kai Hoversland. “When she tackled you? So, she took you down?” we asked Kai. “Yes, brutally,” he answered.
She’s so good, in fact, that this year the 13-year-old is one of six captains for the Raiders.
“A lot of people, they know who I am, and I’ll just go out somewhere and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re Rachel’” she told us.
“She is the dog that chews everybody up if they’re not doing the right thing,” said her coach, Brian Atkins.
“Last year, when she was playing, it was like, ‘Oh, there’s a girl that’s playing football,’” said Atkins. “All the kids noticed her and knew who she was. Well, now it’s more like she’s a football player — and she just happens to be a girl.”
Even though she’s been playing this game for years for Pop Warner and the Columbia Area Youth Football Association (CAYFA), in the last year, this eighth grader has learned a lot about football — and even more about herself.
“It’s about being a spot of leadership, and having authority,” said Rachel.
Her football-loving family couldn’t be prouder of her transformation — or the fact that she’s still surprising the doubters. “She’s become a much more mature player,” said her stepdad, Travis Burchett. “She understands the system a lot better. She understands her role when she’s playing linebacker, or as a defensive captain. She understands her role as a blocker.”
“Once they see her get out there they realize she’s not gonna take it easy on them,” said Atkins. “So they’re not gonna take it easy on her.”
The Raiders wrapped up their season last week. Rachel isn’t sure if she’ll play football in high school — though her coaches say she has the talent to do so.