These Athletes Prove #GirlsLoveFootball

14-year-old Karlie Harman started out playing soccer and basketball. But after she placed first in an NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competition, she told her parents she wanted to play football, even writing a two-page letter about how much she loved the sport. Her parents supported her, and they aren’t worried about whether she can handle the contact: “If we didn’t think Karlie could handle it, she wouldn’t be doing it.”

Karlie plays quarterback and kicker on Dulles South Youth League’s 130-pound football team, and she made Northern Virginia Football player of the year. She’s also started her own clothing line, Kar-D-O by Karlie. Half of every portion of Karlie’s sales goes to VETsports. 

“Football’s always been known as a male dominated sport,” Karlie’s coach says. “But all of a sudden you get a young lady like Karlie who comes out and shows, no it’s not.”

Karlie confirms that she doesn’t feel like an outsider in the world of football. “It’s not about your size or gender, it’s really about your heart.”

Click through the slideshow above to meet the women who paved the way for girls like Karlie and Sam Gordon, then follow MAKERS correspondent Sam Gordon to get the latest Super Bowl coverage on the ground in Arizona.

Image via Together We Make Football

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Lauren Silberman played club soccer at the University of Wisconsin and got her Masters at MIT before becoming the first woman to try out for the NFL. Unfortunately she couldn’t complete the try out due to an injury, but her presence marked a milestone for women in football. Image via NY Daily News

Last year, Jen Welter became the first woman to play in a contact position for a men’s pro football league. Though she usually plays linebacker in women’s leagues, Welter said she took the opportunity for contact because, “I’m an athlete, I’m competitive. But the bigger thing for me is obviously for little girls to see they can do everything just like little boys can.” Image via the Examiner

When Patricia Palinkas and her husband signed a contract for the men’s semi-pro team the Orlando Panthers in 1970, she became the first woman to play professional football. On her first play, she was attacked by Jets player Wally Florence, who wanted to punish her for "making folly with a man's game."  Palinkas with her husband, image via Life

Julie Harshbarger is a football placekicker. She first signed to the Cardinals, before playing for the Knights, the Vipers, then the Blitz in the Continental Indoor Floor League. 

Katie Hnida is the first woman to play and score points in an NCAA Division 1 football game. She played varsity football for four years at the high school level before making the University of Colorado football team, then transferring to University of New Mexico where she played three seasons for the Lobos.  Image via Katie Hnida