When the Armijo High School Indians take on the American Canyon Wolves on Friday night to kick off their respective football seasons, there may be girl cheerleaders urging them on to victory, but there won’t be any girls making tackles.
That wasn’t the case in the 1980s, when Vicky Valentine Proud played junior varsity and varsity football for the Indians.
Proud, a lifelong tomboy, has loved football for as long as she can remember. Her older brother J.R. would play neighborhood tackle games with high school friends and she would join in. She was 8. Proud soon learned there is no crying in football.
“My lip got busted open and I was looking at the blood,” Proud said. “My brother said, ‘Well, you have two choices: You can wipe the blood off and get back there or you can go home. If you’re going to cry, you’re going home.’ So I wiped the blood off and got back there.”
Proud lived and breathed football. In addition to playing two-hand touch in the street and no-pads tackle in local parks, she collected football cards, had the electronic buzzing football game and was adept at Talking Football, a precursor to fantasy football.
After spending her freshman year at Armijo getting acclimated, Proud decided to follow a dream and try out for the football team. She was not the first.
“I had a female classmate who went out in spring for the before-the-season workouts, but never made it to summer, much less to pads and the season,” Proud said. “But she gave me the shot of courage I needed to go for it.”
Proud is quick to point out that she was not a starter or even played that much. But when she got her number called, she gave it her all. What she lacked in speed, she made up for in grit. Proud played offense and defense and was not afraid of contact.
“I’ve heard of a lot of girls who play football just to see if they can, but they don’t take the sport seriously,” Proud said. “I wasn’t going to do that.”
She never faced opposition from anyone for her decision to play a traditionally male sport and balked at any special treatment, such as a coach who offered her a head start in team wind sprints. Still, having a girl on the team required adjustments.
“The first game I ever played in was when we beat Stockton 8-0, and I got to play in the last quarter to help preserve the win,” Proud said. “Well, the guys thought it would be nice to let the lady shower first. Guys don’t know much about girls because we take our time. The coaches started yelling, ‘Hey! Are you done yet?!’ And I yelled back, ‘Hey! I’m shaving my legs! Sorry!’ “
She also wore slightly different protective gear.
“For protection I wore a sports bra – you learned to tie “the sisters” down so there is nothing for opponents to grab,” Proud said.
In her junior year, Proud’s mother would not allow her to play, as she wanted her to refocus on academics. Proud still helped the team with equipment and other necessaries.
In October 1986 she was present, but did not play, in the infamous game when Fairfield and Armijo played in overtime. The Indians were the only team to score, yet the game was ruled a tie as overtime was only played in case it was needed to break a tie for a postseason berth. It still sticks in her craw.
Proud remains a die-hard football fan and roots for the Oakland Raiders. Still, she confesses to having a softer side: She likes “chick flicks,” is a mother to two grown children and was married three years ago.
Proud looks back on her experience playing JV and varsity football at Armijo as the fulfillment of a dream.
“I loved being a part of a team and getting a better sense of the game – there’s so much more than meets the eye,” Proud said. “I think when you are playing football you go out there to win, you go out there to learn, but most importantly you go out there to have fun.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.