Football is her middle name ... sort of.
Madison Dallas Howell was named in part after her family’s favourite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.
The 16-year-old Guelph CVI student is an assistant coach for the school's football team.
This isn’t her first time coaching either, previously helping out with the minor football Junior Varsity Gryphons.
“My parents were married in a football stadium and I just always loved football,” said Howell.
“I think what really drove it was seeing so many women going into football in the NFL, and seeing so many coaches, definitely, has made me want to do something in that career,” the Grade 11 student said.
Football isn’t her only passion she also plays competitive golf and is hoping to get a scholarship to the University of North Texas. It has golf and a good football reputation, along with a sports management program she wants to study in.
She said she gained the confidence to pursue coaching by seeing all the women in Guelph playing football.
“I can do it, and well why not make a career out of it.”
She didn’t play football before coaching but was always an avid watcher and fan of the game.
“[I] knew more terms than full-grown men by the time I was eight years old, … I had this knowledge behind the game that was just so incredible to me that I was like, why not just take it and run with it?”
Both teams she has helped coach were all male.
“We haven't had any other girls come and try out. But I really hope one day that we do, and I hope that I'm in high school to be able to see that,” she said.
She started as an assistant coach for the Gaels this year after emailing the head coach a list of her credentials and expressing her goal to eventually become an offensive line coach for the NFL. She has already been invited back to coach next year.
"I thought it was fantastic," said Dan Crabbe, head coach for the Gaels.
"It's great to have her and I think just more exposure for women in sports, especially football," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't have a women's football team which would be awesome."
He said it is exciting to have someone like Howell be a part of the team and want to learn more about football.
“I think some of the biggest things that I've learned, because I already have a heavy background knowledge on football, was about the mental side of the game and seeing how much these guys actually put into it every day,” said Howell.
She learned how each position works together and how the offensive line is the most important part of the game, to score touchdowns.
Being the only woman coach on an all-male team has its challenges.
“I would say that the coaches did a really fantastic job of making me feel very welcomed with the team. I would also say that the team was generally pretty welcoming to me and very respectful. I would say I received the most respect from our senior students,” she said.
She said it took some time for the freshmen to respect her and realize she knew what she was doing.
The Gaels went winless this season.
“There isn't anyone to blame for that, it was just this year wasn’t our year. And that's how it goes in football,” said Howell.
Her love for the Dallas Cowboys was solidified when she watched games from the '70s and '80s. "That's what football truly is, was how they played through the '80s," said Howell.
“They worked together as this one giant machine,” she said.
Howell wants to teach her team how to work together like the Dallas Cowboys.
Howell’s parents are supportive of her goals. Her dad taught her old school drills she can run with her team and her mom drives her to and from practice.
When she first started as an assistant coach her mom printed out motivational quotes from female coaches.
She likes McMaster football coach Taylor MacIntyre, she said she is encouraging of women in sports.
Going into golf will help her get a good education while she pursues sports management, she said. After her studies are finished she hopes to go right into coaching but knows it is difficult to land those positions right away.
Alternatively, she wants to go into sports law.
“I would just say that if there's any other girls out there who want to pursue something in football, whether it's playing coaching, managing, even being a … team doctor in football, they can do it,” said Howell.