LHS linebacker paving her own way

Loudon High School sophomore Maddy Rossi-Dupas catches a pass during practice.

Loudon High School sophomore Maddy Rossi-Dupas grew up around the Loudon High School football program as she watched her mother Jennifer Rossi care for injured players on the sidelines as the team’s athletic trainer.

Now, Maddy is taking on a different perspective and will don a Loudon uniform on Friday nights this season.

“Maddy’s grown up around our program because her mom, Jennifer Rossi, has been our trainer for 10 or 15 years, I don’t know the exact time,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “I’ve watched Maddy grow up. She played football over in the Kingston youth program all through elementary school, played for (Cherokee Middle School), and they decided to send her here to Loudon High School. Last year, she helped us as a manager.”

Rossi-Dupas began playing football when she was 4 years old and has been around the game ever since.

She played in a youth league in Kingston and starred at Cherokee Middle School as a kicker, linebacker and defensive end before transferring to Loudon last year.

“I had watched my cousin play, and he played for the Mighty Might team, which is like (Loudon Quarterback Club) but for Kingston,” she said. “I started playing, and they played me at center and I played at center for a while. In middle school, I took a year off because I wanted to focus on motocross. I came back and played seventh- and eighth-grade year. When I came here, I took freshman year off because I was like, ‘These are big dudes,’ and I didn’t want to get hurt.”

While serving as a manager for the Redskins last season, Rossi-Dupas realized she wanted to get back out on the field.

She typically plays lacrosse in the fall but following the cancellation of the fall season, Rossi-Dupas decided to try out for the Redskins.

“This year, I was like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to do it. I don’t have a lacrosse season because that’s been canceled,’ so I was like, ‘It’s not going to hurt anything’,” she said. “I get to do what I love, and the worst case scenario is I’ll get a little bit hurt but I always recover.”

Several Loudon County female athletes have kicked for Greenback and Lenoir City over the last five years, but Rossi-Dupas will look to take on a different role as a linebacker.

“She’s always been one that’s been athletic and when she would come to the practices, she would be right in there with the boys,” Harig said. “I think this is natural for her because this is nothing different — this is all she knows. So actually not playing last year was unique for her because that was the first time she hadn’t played in a while.

“Right now, she’s playing linebacker and she’ll get time in JV games,” he added. “That’s one thing, she has not been out there (last week) in pads yet because she had a planned trip already. We’ll find out when the pads go on whether she can handle playing linebacker and if it’s something she really wants to do. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in her, and she’s worked out all summer and she’s ready.”

Rossi-Dupas said the transition to high school football has been challenging, but she continues to push herself every day.

“Everyone assumes because you’re the girl on the team, you’re the kicker, which is understandable because most girls aren’t built to play football,” she said. “I’m still not completely built to play football, but I’m going to play JV and, hopefully, enjoy it. All the boys are super accepting, and I’ve always gotten along with guys a little bit easier than girls. They thought of me as one of the boys, and I’ve always enjoyed that. I came to Loudon for a fresh start, and being able to play football has added to that fresh start.”

Rossi-Dupas wants to be role model for other young female athletes.

“I don’t want a story just because I’m the only girl on the team because that’s not what it’s all about,” she said. “I want to be an example for other girls to follow and break barriers and show that just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t play football.”