Florida Teen Gets Her Chance to Play Quarterback

Erin Dimeglio of South Plantation High School is first female to play quarterback for a Florida high school team

Monday, Sep 3, 2012  |  Updated 6:55 AM EDT
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Rob Marmion

Erin Dimeglio of South Plantation High School is first female to play quarterback for a Florida high school team.

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The third-string quarterback for South Plantation High School wears No. 13 as a tribute to Dan Marino, and her parents met at a Miami Dolphins game. She has been known to play football in parking lots.

She also has a ponytail sticking out of her helmet.

Here are Erin Dimeglio's stats from Friday night: No passes, no yards, no touchdowns, and that's all irrelevant. The senior is believed to be the first female to play quarterback for a Florida high school team, after taking two snaps — handing the ball off both times — in a 31-14 win over Nova High.

"To us, she's a pretty humble, regular kid," said Kathleen Dimeglio, Erin's mother.

Humble, maybe. Regular, that's debatable.

Dimeglio's typical day goes like this: Awake at 6 a.m., out by 7:15 for high school, over to nearby Broward College — she's taking 12 credits this fall, after earning 15 last year, meaning she'll be a college sophomore before long — around midday, back to high school for football practice, and home at 8:30 p.m. Homework until 10:30. Then sleep.

After the family dinner, dishes await her. No special treatment for the quarterback when it comes to family chores.

Frankly, she doesn't want special treatment, anywhere.

"I'm just out here to prove myself," said Erin Dimeglio, a babysitter when she's not studying or playing quarterback. "I'm going to prove it by doing it on the field."

Camera crews surrounded her after Friday's game, and Dimeglio was clearly uncomfortable. The team's star running back, Miami commitment Alex Collins, rushed for 221 yards and scored three second-half touchdowns as South Plantation — located near Fort Lauderdale — rallied from a 14-10 deficit.

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Dimeglio would have preferred more questions about the victory.

"I will say this past week has been a little bit overwhelming, trying to keep her humble in it," Kathleen Dimeglio said. "She's got a pretty good grasp of it. She's concerned about the attention on her, when she wants the attention on her whole team."

At 5-foot-5, she's a standout guard for South Plantation's basketball team, getting interest from Division III schools. But football is in her blood — her father, Tom Dimeglio, was a high school teammate of Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades and Brian Blades. Tom Dimeglio went to a Dolphins game with a friend once, saw the friend's sister there and soon married her.

Their daughters, Erin and Amy, have a deep bond, with Amy making the three-hour drive home from Orlando each of the past two weekends to see her sister play. (Erin Dimeglio got a full series last week in South Plantation's preseason game.)

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"A long drive, but it's worth it," Amy Dimeglio said.

The only thing coach Doug Gatewood — who got this ball rolling as her girls flag football coach, deciding she had more than enough talent in her right arm to play with boys — promised her parents was that if she played, she would only be put in situations where she could be effective.

Down by four points at halftime Friday, it seemed unlikely a third-stringer would see the field.

Her team rallied. The defense got stops, and with about 1:40 left — several minutes after "Put Erin in! Put Erin in!" chants started — Dimeglio ran into the huddle.

Her huddle.

Dwarfed by linemen, Dimeglio called the play, aligned her team in the shotgun, took the snap and handed off to Daniel Dayes for a 5-yard gain. A similar play followed, with Dayes getting 23 yards that time, and Dimeglio returned to the sideline to celebrate with giddy teammates.

"The team has been great to Erin from Day 1," Tom Dimeglio said. "They've all been fantastic. I want to definitely applaud all the boys playing. They've supported her in every way. They're out there looking out for her."

When the final whistle sounded, Erin Dimeglio was the first player in line at midfield to shake hands with Nova's team. Her parents were hesitant about the entire notion of her playing at first, but simply couldn't stop beaming and yelling when the moment finally arrived.

"It was a great feeling, but I think it should be about the whole team, a team effort, not just me," she wrote Saturday on Twitter.

Injuries are a concern, of course.

Her parents said she currently has a slightly torn labrum — her throwing shoulder, no less. She's played through broken noses and dislocated fingers. She's even dealt with a concussion.

But those injuries came from basketball, not football.

"Girls varsity basketball can get really violent," Kathleen Dimeglio said. "At least out here, she's wearing a helmet and pads."

Erin Dimeglio wants to be just like every other player. So when Gatewood offered his third-string quarterback a handshake at the end of the night, she grasped his hand firmly.

And with that, Gatewood called her "sweetie."

No, she's not like every other player. Apparently, she's not like any other in state history, either.

"Don't give up on your dreams," she said, when asked what advice she'd give other girls. "Keep dreaming."

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