Campus receiver breaks down gender barriers

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (KWCH) -- Sierra Johnson is not just "one of the guys", she's one of the toughest girls on the football field. But even tough girls need some backup.

"It's just the best feeling in the world to know that you have this many guys backing you," she said. "My team, I'm so grateful for them. They support me and they support my dreams."

Those dreams started last year, when Johnson joined the Campus High School Freshman football team. Her Junior Varsity coach Jonathan Dravis said this wide receiver has the fundamentals down pat.

"She knows how to run the routes at the right depth and she knows how to catch a football with her hands and not use her body."

Former Women's Professional Football wide receiver and former Eyewitness Sports anchor Dani Welniak saw all of the same attributes.

"A lot of receivers, when they've been playing the sport for a long time, get lazy and don't keep their hands together in a diamond shape," she said. "The thing that stood out to me about her was her ability to catch and how good her hands are and I think that's something that will make her a successful wide receiver playing not only with girls, but also with the boys."

Young women diving into male-dominated sports is nothing new, but to tackle a skill position, is rather rare. Yet, Johnson refuses to be called a trailblazer.

"That's a bit strong, but I've had other girls approach me and say they've wanted to play and ask how it was and they can't ask the guys or the guys don't have the same perspective. There are other girls in the community that do play and want to play. I don't know if I'm blazing that trail or they're doing it themselves, but either way, it makes me happy to see them out."

She does have advice just in case some of those young women are too afraid to ask.

"Do it. There's really nothing else," she said. "You'll get support. There will be people who have doubts in you. There are people who doubt me, there are people on this team who doubt me, but the amount of people who support you and the amount of people who want you to be there and the amount of people who are happy you are there, will far-outweigh the people who don't want you there."

Johnson, only a sophomore, has plenty of years ahead to sharpen her skills. But as for her future?

"Not football related, sorry to disappoint."

Johnson plans on graduating high school and pursuing a STEM degree in college, and even finishing with a masters degree. Her coach said that is certainly attainable.

"I don't think she's restricted by traditional gender roles," Dravis said. "If she is interested in a male dominated field, I'm sure she'll be successful. But I'll say this, she's a wonderful student and a bright young lady in whatever she decides to pursue."

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