Middle school girl plays quarterback, makes state football all-star team

Jo Schmidt isn’t your typical female football player. (WBTV)
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 10:42 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV/Gray News) - A football player at a South Carolina middle school made history by becoming the first girl to earn a place on a state all-star team.

Eighth grader Jo Schmidt started playing the sport in her backyard with her cousins, mostly boys, when she was 5 years old.

“My son used to play football when he was younger, and my girls were cheerleaders,” said Nichole Kaplan, Jo’s mother. “Jo did not want to be on that side of the field, she wanted to be on the other side of the field.”

Jo is now the starting quarterback for the Sullivan Middle School Falcons and plays as a defensive end on defense. She also handles kickoff duties for Sullivan.

“I like the physical part,” she said. “I like being able to prove that I’m not just the average female football player, that I can do everything that a boy can do.”

She continues to prove to herself, and to anyone else watching, that girls belong on the gridiron.

“She likes a challenge,” said her father, Jesse Schmidt. “A lot of folks say she can’t. For her it’s, ‘Put me on the line, coach.’ Or, ‘Give me the ball.’”

Jo’s drive on the field has taken her to a place that no girl before her in the state has ever gone. Before the season, she was selected to the South Carolina roster for the Youth Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.

The postseason all-star game pits some of the top players from South Carolina against top players from North Carolina.

“I cried. I was like, ‘This is surreal!’” her mother said. “When she started playing when she was 7, 8 years old, her goal was to make it to the Shrine Bowl.”

Jo said it’s chance to once again prove that “we can do just as much as guys can do.”

“And they should never be scared of anything like that,” she said.

The Youth Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas takes place Dec. 30 in Greenville, South Carolina.