If Shardanay LaMark had it her way, she’d have a locker room all to herself, just like she did back during spring practice before McDonogh 35 moved to its new location.
Instead, the sophomore gets dressed for practice with some of the other athletes at her school.
The volleyball players get dressed in there with her.
So do the cheerleaders.
But LaMark’s uniform is different.
No pom-poms. No volleyball shorts.
“Nah, that’s too girly for me,” she said with a laugh.
So instead, she puts on shoulder pads, thigh pads and a football helmet, just like her other 65 or so teammates who dress for practice in another locker room.
Putting on football equipment is nothing new for the 15-year-old.
She used to put on her brother’s pads and helmets when she was younger.
But now she is putting on the maroon and gold.
LaMark is in her first year playing football for the Roneagles.
She’ll be wearing No. 60 on Saturday night when McDonogh 35 plays its season opener against rival St. Augustine at Tad Gormley Stadium.
And as surprising as that may be, her position may come as more of a surprise.
She lines up at right guard, where she is on the second unit.
She began playing park ball at Easton Park two years ago, and because of the weight restrictions, has always played on the line. (She’s listed at 5-foot-3, 177 pounds).
“I was scared at first,” she said when asked about the transition from park ball to high school ball. “When I first got out here I was thinking ‘What have I got myself into? Why are they hitting so hard.’ But I like it. It’s harder than I thought it would be.”
The hard part, of course, is trying to block teammates like Sci Martin and Matepshon Taylor, who is being heavily recruited by Division I schools all across the country.
But perhaps even harder was convincing Roneagles coach Wayne Reese to let her play.
She begged him every day when she was a freshman.
“I couldn’t turn the corner without her asking me,” Reese said. “I tried to discourage her. I’d tell her ‘Sweetheart, you are going to get killed.’ ”
But LaMark wasn’t taking no for an answer.
She persisted, and Reese, who had liability concerns, got approval from school officials and the LHSAA.
“When we drill and practice, she is involved in everything we do,” Reese said. “She’s tough and she never complains.”
LaMark is now like one of the guys.
She got reminded of that by a referee during a scrimmage when she forgot to put her mouthpiece in before a play.
“Hey sir, you have to put your mouthpiece in,” he reminded her.
Her teammates treat her like one of the guys also.
Well, sort of.
“We treat her more like a little sister,” Martin said. “She is a part of our family. I’m not going to lie, it was strange at first. But she fits in very well. She is very cool and she is humble. It’s not every day you have a girl on the team, especially playing on the line. It’s like something you see in a movie and I’m in the cast of it.”
LaMark isn’t playing a leading role in the movie, but she is getting her share of cameo appearances.
She played in more than 20 plays in a scrimmage two weeks ago against Jesuit and played three snaps last week in the jamboree against McMain.
“It was fun,” she said about the scrimmage. “I messed up on the pass blocking a little bit. That’s harder than run blocking.”
When she’s not playing football, she’s watching it.
Surprisingly, she lists a pair of quarterbacks — Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson — as two of her favorite players.
But she has no desire to play one of the more glamorous positions that get more of the spotlight.
“I just want to block,” LaMark said.