PEABODY — Colleen Cooper admits she was surprised when her 7-year old daughter Camden said she wanted to play football with the boys.
The Coopers are a football family. Their son C. J. quarterbacks the Peabody Pop Warner C squad; daughter Kendelle cheers for the D team; another daughter, Caiya, works in the concession stand; and dad Craig helps coach.
Colleen, who is secretary for Peabody Pop Warner, figured Cammie would follow in her sister's footsteps and join the cheerleading squad.
"Cammie told me she didn't want to cheer; she wanted to play football and run the boys over," said her mother.
From what she's been told, Colleen Cooper's daughter is the second female to play for Peabody Pop Warner. She plays for the Peabody Pop Warner E team, which is currently unbeaten at 5-0.
"I was really worried how Cammie's teammates would react, but they've been great," she said. "She played flag football (previously), but really didn't get into it. I thought playing tackle football she would get killed, but she's doing a great job and loves it. Her coach, Dave Cummings, has been wonderful."
Camden Cooper is a guard and defensive tackle who is not afraid to get into the action.
"It's so much fun to watch because she's not afraid to knock the boys down," said her mom. "Off the field she is such a sweet kid, but once she's out there she is all business. She did have a little trouble figuring out who to tackle so my husband tells her what number to hit.
"It's funny to hear parents on the other team say their son just got tackled by a girl; they're so surprised she's playing. Cammie is the biggest one on her team, and she just loves the game."
Recently, the St. John's School second grader had a serious health scare that kept her out of action. When Cammie had excruciating pains in her stomach, her parents took her to the emergency ward at North Shore Children's Hospital.
"At first they thought it was her appendix, but after taking a CAT scan they rushed her by ambulance to Mass. General," said Mrs. Cooper. "She had a mass in her stomach that they warned us could be cancer. We were so frightened, but it turned out to be benign.
"The doctors were able to do laproscopic surgery through her belly button and removed a mass the size of a grapefruit. She lost an ovary and Fallopian tube because it was entangled around them, but three weeks later she was back on the field."
Cooper had the surgery Aug. 24 and didn't miss a single game. Her teammates all signed a football and gave it to her while she was recuperating.
"I can't say enough about her teammates; that's a great group of kids. She had been practicing before the surgery, but after what she went through I didn't think she'd ever be able to go back," Mrs. Cooper remarked. "Doctors cleared her to play, and she was right back with the team for the season opener. Right now she's following her dream."
"A great kid"
As far as coach Dave Cummings is concerned, Cooper is just one of the players and does all the drills everybody else does. She doesn't get any favored treatment because of her gender.
"Cammie is a football player. She's just like all the other kids; we treat them all the same," said Cummings.
"Her mother wanted me to coach her (there are two Peabody Pop Warner E teams), and she's a great kid. The boys don't even think about her being a girl — and that's meant as a compliment. We have a great group of kids who work hard.
When she was out sick we wanted to do something for her, and my wife bought a football for them to sign," added Cummings. "We gave it to her when she got out of the hospital. We're all glad things worked out for her and she's back with us."