From football to flips: Pee Wee standout is a fast study

- Katelyn Smith stands out on the field. Not only because she is the only player wearing pink cleats on a recent Friday night game, but Katelyn has a knack for making plays -- on both offense and defense.

Katelyn, 8, plays for the Lutz Chiefs Pee Wee team, and she just completed her first full year of tackle football. Her mom says her daughter picked up the game quickly.

"She started cheering when she was 3," said Erin Smith.  "Last year she said she wanted to try football. Why not? Everything she tries she's not too bad at."

The field in Lutz where the Chiefs play is also a second home to the Smith family. Dad Chris is one of the coaches for Katelyn's team, and brother Tyler is also helping out. Tyler taught his younger sister some of the early basics to the game.

"She was very good," Tyler recalled. "But she argued a lot."

In the second half of the last game of the spring season, Katelyn's Chiefs and the visiting Saints were scoreless with minutes remaining. Katelyn blitzed from her linebacker position, disrupting the play in the backfield. She recovered the fumble, giving her team a chance to go ahead.

The Chiefs turned the ball back over on downs, however, and the game was decided on a late touchdown run by the Saints’ Chris Smalls.

Chris Smith says the most important aspect of football for the Pee Wees is to have fun.

"Have fun," Chris explained, "and learn to play as a team."

Katelyn Smith does not like to talk about herself and her accomplishments in cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics and, now, football. Teammate Bryce Holeman stood beside her for support as she talked about the name on the back of her jersey: "ICEBOX."

"No one calls me that," Katelyn insisted. "It's just a nickname from a movie, 'The Little Giants.’”

“Ah yes,” Bryce chimed in.  "The Little Giants!"

Katelyn had one more surprise in store. She did a running triple forward-flipping handspring. Her landing was perfect. She had just played an entire game of tackle football and she flawlessly executed this extraordinary athletic feat.

Her mom says she doesn't know how long Katelyn will continue to play football.

"She can hold her own right now," Erin Smith offered.  "We'll see. One season at a time."

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