As the first girl ever to play on a Los Angeles Unified School District football team, Lizzie Luna drew the kind of media attention normally reserved for superstar athletes.
This year, however, the bright lights have faded and Lizzie is "just concentrating on getting on the playing field," she said.
"All the media hype was nice and all but it was really distracting, ya know?" said the 15-year-old Westchester High School sophomore who persuaded school district officials to revoke a policy that prevented girls from playing contact sports.
"People thought I just wanted to play football to attract attention. Now that all you reporters have left me alone I can show them that I am serious about the sport."
Her dedication has earned respect from players and praise from B squad Coach Bill Gino, who says he has "never seen a more dedicated player."
"She is the first one on the field every day and she never complains. Everyone on the team has a lot of respect for Lizzie. She's really tough."
The 5-foot, 4-inch, 150-pounder is listed as a fullback but has been limited to occasional stints on the kickoff team. Still, she thinks that is an improvement over last year when she played 2 minutes and 35 seconds.
"I never expected to play a lot," she said last week. "I'm just glad I've gotten out on the field in all four games so far this year."
Lizzie, who jokes about "never making the pros," would like to be an actress or singer, preferably of reggae music. So moved is she by reggae's pulsating Afro-Jamaican rhythms and religious message that she is saving money from her part-time job at a seafood restaurant to travel to Ethiopia to be baptized as a member of the Rastafarian religion.
Why go all the way to Ethiopia? "Because that's where Bob Marley, the absolute king of reggae, was baptized," she said. "It would just be a cool thing to do."
But Lizzie's mother, Gretchen, who is still trying to get used to the idea of her daughter playing football, said: "That's not the view of the management."