Above: Mandy Davis poses with the game ball from the game where she scored a touchdown. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)
Mandy Davis said her teammates may have been more excited than she was after she scored a touchdown last Thursday when the Pleasant Grove eighth-grade Spartans beat Maddox Middle School in Jasper.
“When I was walking off the field, half the team came on the field and started doing the chest bump thing, like you see on TV,” she recalled. “I was worried that we were going to get a penalty for that but we didn’t.”
Davis had played middle linebacker in the seventh-grade game that opened the evening. That had her mother thinking she had seen all she needed to see.
The Davises operate a hatchery on their small farm behind Pleasant Grove Athletic Complex. Jami Davis departed Jasper after the seventh-grade contest to tend to their chickens, goat, horse and donkey.
“I thought, ‘There’s (an eighth-grade) game and she won’t play in it,’” she said of her daughter. “It’s a long drive. I’ll put the animals up and then go meet the bus.”
That’s when she learned what she had missed. Mandy greeted her by tossing her the game ball.
“‘Coach Mack told me to give you this,’” she recounted her daughter saying. “’It’s the game ball. I made a touchdown. He put me into the fourth quarter of the (eighth-grade) game. I made a touchdown.’”
“Coach Mack” is Pleasant Grove eighth-grade coach Alex McSorley. He said Mandy isn’t the first female football player he’s coached but she is the first one to stick with it.
“At my old school, I had one or two come out but they never made it through summer,” he said. “She’s the only one who came out and made it through the summer and is still with us right now.”
Mandy’s scoring opportunity was a reward for her diligence during summer training sessions and her continued commitment.
“She’s never once complained about anything,” the coach said. “She’s always at practice. She works her little tail off just as hard as the rest of them. When we ask them to get the water out for practice, she’s always the first one to do it and does it without asking. She’s been a model teammate.”
With the outcome of the game virtually assured in the fourth quarter, the plan was for Mandy to come in when the Spartans got close to the goal line. She would run behind “Big Tim” Keenan III, who Jami Davis called “a mini-Mount Cody,” referring to former Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody.
It took Mandy three tries to score. She fumbled on the first carry but the Spartans recovered and the seventh-grader was stopped short on the second effort.
“The third time,” teammate Colby Kilpatrick said, “Joe Jones comes behind her and shoves her into the end zone.”
In doing so, Mandy joined the sisterhood of female Alabama football players. It includes current Vestavia Hills High girls soccer coach Brigid Littleton, who played linebacker and receiver in her days at Simmons Middle School, and Savannah Reier, the current starting varsity placekicker at Northridge High.
Mandy was up late Thursday night, calling relatives to tell them what she had done. She didn’t get to call her father, Brian Wong, who lives in Chicago, because he was traveling outside the country. He hopes to attend the homecoming game Thursday against Bottenfield.
Beyond the football field, Mandy is in the National Junior Honor Society, president of the Pleasant Grove 4H Club and is on the Science Olympiad team. She also has an active role with the farm, rising before school to tend to the animals and doing the same when she arrives after football practice. She even helped build the chicken coop.
Mandy has long enjoyed watching football and wanted to play since she was very young. Her godfather Dane Johnson taught her to throw a football as soon as she could hold one.
“When I was 5, my Nanna told me I was going to break my neck if I played,” she said.
Her desire to play football returned later but she put it on hold as her mother battled colon cancer. When the disease had been overcome, the 12-year-old renewed her request.
“She comes to me and says, ‘Mom, I wanna do this,’” Jami Davis recalled. “I say OK. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be tough and you may sit on the bench a long time. If that’s what you want to do, go do it.’”
To get ready for her first season, Mandy took part in the football camp of former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims. Later, when she attended Nick Saban’s camp, Sims pulled up and asked her if she remembered him.
Mother and daughter said Mandy’s football experience has been pleasant and well-received at Pleasant Grove.
“Everyone was very supportive,” Jami Davis said. “The team was very supportive. The parents were very supportive. We had no issues.”
“I think it’s awesome,” Colby Kilpatrick said. “I think a lot more of them (girls) should sign up and play.”
Mandy says she wants to play football in college. “If I’m not good enough I’m not going to be able to so I’m going to have to work really hard to try and make that happen,” she said. “But I’m definitely going to play in high school.”