GAHANNA, Ohio (WCMH) — Ever since the seventh grade, Gahanna-Lincoln senior linebacker Jaymi Curtis has swapped out glamour for the gridiron.
“All my guy friends, they played football and so I just wanted to play with them,” she said with a shrug. “I didn’t think at the time I was defying the status quo. I just thought I was doing it with my friends.”
Friends got her into the sport, but her love for the game kept her going all the way through her final year of high school.
“How exciting it is to go out to practice and hit!” she said smiling while talking about why she loves football. “Nothing else brought me that excitement like football did.”
Misconceptions about who she is and what she likes don’t deter Jaymi from being herself.
“I like wearing dresses. I like doing my makeup every now-and-then,” Curtis said as she slid a set of football pads over her head and began strapping them on. “I’m still pretty girly and I still like my feminine side.”
Head coach Bruce Ward, a girl-dad of a high-level athlete, wasn’t surprised to have a girl on his team. But Jaymi did surprise him by staying on the team all four years of high school as a linebacker.
“I thought maybe by her junior year the physicality would take over, but she persevered through everything,” Ward said. “There’s males who don’t want to play linebacker and we don’t take it easy on her. She does the same thing everyone else does.”
Fellow Gahanna senior Domiyon Jones didn’t hesitate to say Jaymi can be a bit more detail-oriented than her male teammates.
“Out of everybody, we will go to her and ask her for help because she’ll be like, ‘Oh it’s this and that’ and we’re like, ‘Wow,'” Jones said. “That’s unique that we can go to not one of the guys, but a girl on the team that knows just as much as we do.”
Jaymi believes she’s also made her teammates better off the field as well.
“I think that honestly it’s made a lot of guys mature,” Jaymi said. “Some of the guys think about girls differently. They just hold women to a higher standard since I’ve been here and that means a lot to me that I’ve helped them realize that.”
Playing football has helped Jaymi realize that she can hold herself to a higher standard, especially by showing herself kindness and grace.
“I’ve heard everything like, ‘Oh you’re a linebacker, you’ve got those linebacker shoulders. You’re a man. You want to be a guy,'” she said. “It’s annoying to hear, but just knowing myself like, yes, I’m a girl. Yes I have broad shoulders. I lift heavy. I play football, but I’m still a woman. No matter what’s said about me, no matter how many times I’m knocked over by a real big man, I’m still going to get back up and that’s all that matters.”