Hannah Proctor

Hannah Proctor dons her CMS football jersey at the school's practice field following the completion of the team's 2019 season. Proctor wasn't the first girl Coach Bryan Morgan had had on the team, but she was his first female quarterback.

When stories emerge of girls playing tackle football, more often than not it seems that they are usually in as a kicker or other positions where there is less chance of contact or injury. 

From the grade-school level to the professional level, it is not often that female players seem to break from this norm. One just has to look back to this summer, when U.S. women's soccer star and two-time world cup champion Carli Lloyd was entertaining the idea of being an NFL kicker. 

This season at Coffee County Middle School, one of the football team's newest members didn't want to play special teams. Seventh grader Hannah Proctor wanted to be front and center with the offense as a quarterback.

"I just like getting to say things, getting to play, definitely," Proctor said.

Proctor, 12, is a native of Smithville, where she attended Northside Elementary School. While in Smithville, Proctor also spent some time as a cheerleader.

She and her family moved to Coffee County in April 2018 before starting sixth grade. Later that year, she began playing quarterback at the Division 3 level of the Manchester Youth Football League.

In addition to playing for the MYFL in 2018, Proctor also played quarterback for the Tennessee Outlaws travel team that same year.

This season, she decided to take the next step and join the CMS team.

"When I moved here, I was known as the girl who played football," Proctor said. "And then I moved up, so I went to middle school and then I was known as the girl in middle school football."

Proctor developed an interest in football at a young age. As a softball outfielder, she discovered the strength she had in her arm and thought it could translate well to the gridiron. 

With some help from her older brother Clayton, Proctor's love for the game grew and she eventually decided to give football a shot at age 11.

"I played with my older brother and he taught me some things," Proctor explained. "So I'm like 'Hey, I should join the team.'"

From her start at the rec-league and travel team levels, Proctor did not play any other position besides quarterback.

When Proctor decided to join the CMS team for the 2019 season, Coach Bryan Morgan knew that she had some quarterback experience under her belt. There had been female players on Morgan's teams previously, but never at the quarterback position.

While there was some initial uncertainty as to how it would translate to the middle school level, her skill at the position became apparent.

"She did a real good job, she did everything we asked her to," Morgan said. "The thing that jumped out for us was her ability to throw the ball. She had a good drop-back, really good footwork."

Proctor spent most of the season on the CMS JV team and played in five or six games, per Morgan's estimation. She also saw some varsity time in the Raiders' September 3 game against South Franklin.

In addition to her arm strength, Proctor's quickness on her feet helped her make big plays. One in particular came in the JV game against Harris, when she had a quarterback sneak that went for about 50 yards.

Even with her footwork and arm strength, playing quarterback also means the defense will do what it has to do to bring each offensive play to a halt.

While playing the position at a higher level exposes players to harder tackles and hits, this didn't bother Proctor. She's taken her fair share of harder hits. For Proctor, it's just another part of playing the game.

"It's like 50-50," Proctor said. "Sometimes it doesn't feel good, but you have to take it."

This attitude helped her easily assimilate with her new teammates. From the start, the Raider football family was quick to embrace her as one of their own.

"She fit right in with the guys. She got right in there," Morgan explained. "We looked at her as just another teammate. The guys didn't look at her any different."

Proctor plans to return to the team in 2020 for her eighth grade season. She also hopes to continue playing quarterback on into high school. 

While the competition and physicality will only increase as the years go on, this did not seem to faze the seventh-grader. 

As for next year, Morgan and his coaching staff are ready to let her go as far as she can. 

"We're just gonna take it year-by-year and just see how she is," Morgan said. "As long as she can do it and wants to do it, we'll let her do it."

Further down the road into high school, Proctor said that she hopes to play quarterback for the Coffee County freshman team and carry that even further. If Proctor does continue over the next few years, she will be in some exclusive company.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, during the 2018-19 season, there were 23 female football players on 11-man teams in the state of Tennessee. This was out of 367 high schools. By contrast, there were 20,920 male players during the same season.

In the meantime, Proctor has a whole season to prepare to make the jump to high school if she chooses to. A football player with passion for the quarterback position, she said all girls should give it a try if they want to.

"I would say go for it and show what you got," Proctor said. "Just be yourself."