Girl on the gridiron: Meet Waverly's Savanna Johnson

Savanna Johnson, a sophomore at Waverly High, plays cornerback and running back (WBNS - 10TV)
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WAVERLY, Ohio - When we take one another at face value, we tend to miss things.

We do that by assuming we know who someone should or shouldn't be.

We do that by not taking the time to appreciate who's underneath that outward appearance.

Savanna Johnson is a sophomore at Waverly High School. On the varsity football team, she's number 28 and plays both defensive back and running back.

"I just enjoy it," she said. "It's fun to me."

Savanna Johnson as a first grader on the gridiron (WBNS - 10TV)

She's been on the gridiron since she was little, going back to first grade. She skipped playing her freshman year of high school because she didn't realize she was allowed to play. Before this season started she had a talk with head coach Chris Crabtree.

"I was pretty up front with her like it's going to be hard work, but if you can make it through it, who am I to stop you," Crabtree said.

So she tied her cleats, strapped on her pads and buckled her helmet and decided to go head-to-head on the turf with about 50 boys.

Savanna Johnson participates in football drills in Waverly, Monday (Bryant Somerville - 10TV)

"When I first started, I was like what if they don't accept me," she said. "But, they've gotten used to me being there."

One player, in particular, was already used to her.

"Yeah, she wants to do it, she can do anything she wants," Laine Johnson said.

That's because Laine Johnson is Savanna's twin brother.

Savanna Johnson stands with her twin brother, Laine. They're holding their brothers, also twins (WBNS - 10TV)

"She's just another player," he said. "I don't treat her any different. She's just part of the team."

Part of the team and part of the family. It's a brotherhood, really, both on and off the field.

In fact, after a date to homecoming fell through, Savanna ended up going with someone else; a teammate.

Savanna Johnson and her homecoming date, a fellow teammate (WBNS - 10TV)

Playing time is limited as a sophomore, but at last Friday's game, the newest running back checked in for the first time in her varsity career, took the handoff and ran for a few yards before being tackled.

She knows there's a stigma; a girl playing a predominantly male sport. She doesn't care about that. All she cares about is knowing she's more than what people think at face value.

"Just like the feeling it gives me, I guess," she said. "Just joy. Even if I'm on the sideline, I'm still there."

It's who she is underneath, and she hopes anyone who sees her playing football has the courage to do what brings them joy.

"If you have a passion for it, do it no matter what," she said.