St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message
 

Not just any gridiron girl

Once the helmet goes on, Andrea “Poo Poo” Aaron is one of the boys, plowing through defenders and taking numerous unishing hits.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published October 9, 2006


TAMPA — The legend of Andrea “Poo Poo” Aaron has grown as she has grown, a girl who plays football better than boys — or so the story goes.

How much is true?

Did she really lead her team in tackles and rushing yards for most of five straight seasons? Did she score every touchdown in the playoffs as the Tampa Bay Youth Football League Raiders reached the 2004 Pee Wee Super Bowl? Did she really hit two boys on the same play so hard she made both cry?

“I’ve seen it all with my own two eyes,” said former Bucs lineman Ian Beckles, who coached Poo Poo as a Pee Wee.

“In the second half, I’d give her the ball every play because by the end of the game, the other team would lie down. They’d lie down and say, 'Please no more. We can’t take any more of this punishment.’

“I think a lot of the other boys are scared of her. Flat out scared. I’m telling you right now, you have never, ever, seen a girl play like this. Never.”

Just ask the boys.

Says Garian Brown, a defensive back for the opposing Jaguars: “She’s a great back whether she’s a girl or not. There are usually a couple of girls in the leagues, but none of them play anywhere near like Poo Poo. With Poo Poo, we never, ever think of her as a girl.

“You have to get after her because she breaks tackles. She plays like a man. She hits really hard. So there’s no way you can let up on her.”

The legend of Poo Poo — her parents called her Poo when she was a toddler — gathered strength three years ago, when Beckles began talking about her on his sports talk radio show. The story, Beckles says, started in 2000 with Poo Poo’s mother, Brenda Williams, who is a legend in her own right.

A single mother who raised seven children while working as a manager at Church’s Chicken, Williams was a defensive tackle for the Tampa Tempest, a former women’s pro football team. She averaged three sacks a game and talked trash. Her number was 99. Her nickname? Baby Sapp.

“That’s where I saw how much Mama loved playing,” Poo Poo said, “so I wanted to play, too.

“It looked like fun. It was. It is. I love it just like mama does.”

***

On Saturday, Poo Poo celebrated her 12th birthday, exactly where she wanted.

She and her mother pulled into Skyway Park in their black KIA — “the Raiders’ colors,” said Williams, 39. A Raiders flag flew from the window, and the license tag read, “Poo Poo 4,’’ in reference to Poo Poo’s number. Williams’ gray T-shirt read, “I bleed silver and black.” The medallion hanging off her neck read, “Poo Poo, Proud Mom.”

Poo Poo was quiet. Mama was fired up.

She knew Poo Poo, who is 5 feet 1, 130 pounds,  would be playing against bigger opponents after being bumped up from Super Midgets to Midgets weeks earlier.

She would get almost every handoff and be in on most tackles as a linebacker against one of the league’s most physical teams, the Jaguars. And, because her team isn’t too good (1-5-1 and outscored 70-0 its past two games) , Poo Poo was expected to absorb a lot of hits. When the Raiders gathered for the pregame pep talk, Williams was right in the middle.

“Now you guys have gotta start blockin’!” she bellowed. “You have to get in there and hit somebody and give Poo Poo a chance to do her thing. Now, you gonna do it?!”

Eyes square on a baby-faced offensive lineman, who nodded. “Well, good,” Williams said. “Good. ’Cuz we need to start blockin’ somebody.”

Then … hardly anybody blocked.

Poo Poo got all but two handoffs, and though she was about the only player on her team to gain yardage — almost always after breaking two or three tackles — she often was hit behind the line of scrimmage by two, four, even five Jaguars, who piled on top.

“An NFL player couldn’t gain any yardage in this offense!” Williams said. “Now somebody, anybody, has got to start blockin’!”

Poo Poo and her mother, who usually spends games with the cheerleaders, were steaming when they walked toward the parking lot after a 34-0 Raiders loss.

Poo Poo said nothing.

Williams let the line have it:  “You guys play scared! You didn’t block anybody! There were five or six guys hitting my baby every time. You gonna get her killed!”

One of Poo Poo’s best friends, lineman Austin Rodriguez, said he felt bad for her.

“I wasn’t worried about her (getting hurt) because I know she’s tough and she’s a great player,’’ Rodriguez said. “I know she can handle getting hit, because I was on the Pee Wee team when she took us all the way to the Super Bowl. But still, I did feel bad for her sometimes.”

***

Williams said she wasn’t worried about her daughter getting hit so hard.

“If I was worried about her getting hit, then I wouldn’t let her play. “This is football, a game I played (for five years). I know what it’s all about, and I know my baby can handle it.

“If it was my boy (Chamberlain sophomore Aubrey Williams) running the ball back there and he was getting hit like that, I’d be yellin’ at the offensive line the same way. … ’’

 Williams said this might be her daughter’s last year of football because she is heading into a developmental stage, physically and emotionally, and there are other sports that interest Poo Poo. Basketball and softball are two.

Poo Poo said she may love football too much to give it up just yet.

But if she keeps getting banged up like on Saturday?

She shrugged. Sure, she was a little bruised, banged up, tired, frustrated.

“But I’m fine,” she said.

Did she wish she had spent her birthday doing something else?

“No,” she said, showing a glimpse of her bright smile, “There is no place else I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to be on my birthday.

“Right here.”

[Last modified October 9, 2006, 23:12:26]


Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT