LOUDON, Tenn. (WATE)- Football has always been a part Madison “Maddy” Rossi-Dupas’ life.
Jennifer Rossi, Maddy’s mother, is an athletic trainer for Loudon high school. When she took the job and moved to Loudon when Maddy was three-years-old, Rossi said since she did not know anyone at the time, she would bring the kids to Loudon’s football practices where Maddy would help get water and catch balls.
At the age of four Rossi says Maddy saw her cousin, who is close in age, play football. She did not want to just be on the sidelines anymore, instead, she wanted to play.
“She would just whine about being on the sidelines,” said Rossi. “She’d have to hold onto the fence and get upset because he was playing, and she couldn’t. And it was because of her age not because of being a girl.”
Her mother told her that if she still wanted to play one year later she would sign her up to do so, and sure enough she did.
“It’s [football] in her blood,” said Rossi.
Maddy played football every year growing up except for 6th grade when she transitioned into middle school and as a freshman at Loudon High School.
Rossi took a job at Kingston schools in 2013, coming back to Loudon in 2017.
In her freshman year at a new high school, Maddy went back to assisting her mom with athletic training duties on the sidelines, helping tape, provide water, etc.
“I think she wanted to focus on school and grades and making connections, but she missed it,” said Rossi.
Not wanting to make a commitment too soon, Maddy started working out and training with the football team to prepare for lacrosse, one of her other sports.
That’s when Loudon assistant football coach Jed Bassett noticed her hard work and dedication to training with the team and encouraged her to reconsider going back to her roots, playing football again.
“One of the coaches was like why don’t you play you’re dedicated you’re putting in just as much effort If not more than some of these boys,” said Rossi-Dupas.
“She got to realizing,’ I can do all these things these boys can do and she went back to her roots a little bit when she played middle school football and decided to give football a second chance at the high school level,” said Loudon head football coach Jeff Harig.
She went in thinking she would just go out for the kicker, feeling that was her safest option. However, Cherinet Feezell filled those duties which then allowed her to play in a different unit she truly enjoys—on defense.
“Defense Is something I’ve always enjoyed,” said Rossi-Dupas. “Getting to the ball and tackling is one of those things I really enjoy.”
She started at linebacker then moved to defensive end—the position she plays now.
“Maddy, she just mixes it up she gets right in there, she doesn’t hesitate.” Said defensive end coach Jed Bassett, “She’s really courageous. I just treat her like one of the guys.”
Harig watched her grow up around the program and was a welcome addition to the team.
“She’s just another player to us,” said Harig. “She’s always been around. She’s just now doing it in football ‘gear’ and she just fits right in.”
“When we came over here because Coach [Harig] knows her demeanor and knows she’s a hard worker and doesn’t expect to be handed anything it just shows to: ‘Hey listen, if you want to play I don’t care if you’re a boy a girl if you want to earn your spot then you earn your spot. I’m not going to give it to you, but you are going to be able to earn it and if you earn it you keep it,” said Rossi-Dupas.
Maddy is treated just like another player for Loudon, except she has her own separate room to store her “football gear” as she calls it.
Her position coach also says she has had a great impact on defense.
“She forces the guys to really do their best because she’s not just going to back up or go easy on them,” said Bassett. “When we play her in the games, she always does a great job there. She gets after it, she’s a joy to watch.”
In her high school football career, she has recorded 2 assists on varsity and 5 tackles and 2 assists on JV.
“Sometimes that girl power is what you need around your program just to get you over the hump some days because us guys, even these teenage boys…sometimes were knuckleheads and you get lack of focus,” said Harig. “But she brings this levelheaded, hardworking football player is what she is.”
Maddy said her long-term career goal is to play all four years in high school and her short-term goal is to build strength and work on her agility in the offseason.
Her overall goal as a female playing in a mainly male sport is to encourage other girls to get into the game.
“My goal as a female in a mainly male sport is encouraging girls that enjoy sports like this to play and to just go for it and understand that you don’t have to be the kicker,” said Maddy, “Of course if you want to do that go ahead and do that because playing on the field isn’t everyone’s forte, but if you want to be a receiver, go and be a receiver…Be you, do you and just have fun while doing it.”