Sam Gordon has taken the nation by storm in recent weeks after her football season highlights video went viral. Turns out the 9 year-old who has since then appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Sports Center” and met members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got her start in Blackfoot. I heard from her father, Brent Gordon, on Twitter and this story was the result.
Sam Gordon poses in full pads and helmet after a Gremlins division youth tackle football game earlier this season in Utah. Photo courtesy of Ariane Sloan.
Tackle like a girl
Youth football phenom got her start in Blackfoot
By MARLOWE HEREFORD
In many ways, Sam Gordon is much like other 9-year-olds.
She enjoys playing outside with her siblings and friends. She loves animals and dreams of what she would like to be when she grows up.
The opportunities she’s had within the past month and a half, however, have changed her life forever. In fact, she’s become one of the most recognized 9-year-olds in the nation because of her success on a youth tackle football team in Herriman, Utah.
The running back who racked up 1,911 yards, 35 touchdowns and 65 tackles in her first season became an Internet sensation in early November.
She and her father, Brent Gordon, shared a season highlights video in a post they made on a BYU athletics message board about how she chose former BYU running back Luke Staley’s jersey number and later met him as he coached an opposing youth team.
Sam Gordon looks for open field during a Gremlins division youth tackle football game earlier this season in Utah. Photo courtesy of Ariane Sloan.
The video was picked up by the website sportsgrid.com before going viral on YouTube, where it has been viewed more than a million times.
Soon after, phones rang and inboxes flooded. Sam appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Sports Center” and the NFL Network. She received a custom-made Wheaties box, attended a San Francisco 49ers practice, met Jon Stewart, worked out with the U.S. women’s national soccer team at its open practice before the Dec. 1 Ireland match in Phoenix, and sat with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at a New York Giants home game.
While the nation knows Sam Gordon as the 9-year-old football phenom, Bingham County knows her as the kind yet tenacious little girl who began her athletic career as a soccer player. The Gordons, who lived in Blackfoot for six years until moving to Salt Lake City last year, haven’t forgotten the endless backyard soccer games with neighborhood boys and older brother Max, where it all started for Sam.
“When I came home from work, I would take the kids and we would play soccer every day until it got too cold,” Brent Gordon said. “Those boys and those kids in that neighborhood were part of Sam’s story.”
Sam’s talent was evident from 3 years old when she followed Max, who is three years older, into soccer. The boys never took it easy on Sam, who would not be intimidated.
It was naturally no surprise to her eastern Idaho friends when they first saw national footage of her excelling on the gridiron.
“It didn’t shock me at all she was playing football,” said Dennis Hatch, one of the Gordons’ neighbors whose sons Hunter and Parker played soccer with Max and Sam. “My youngest kid always said it was embarrassing at school because no one could catch her. This little girl would smoke ’em.”
By 7 years old, Sam was playing in a co-ed youth soccer league. Casey Clements, a nine-year youth soccer coach and three-year president of the Blackfoot competitive youth league, coached his son, Daniel, on the same team as Sam and Max. He remembers Sam’s impressive footwork from her first practice. Like Brent and Dennis, Clements said he never worried about Sam getting hurt. Rather, it was the reverse.
“Was I ever concerned about anybody she may mow down? Yeah,” Clements said with a laugh. “There was no fear in her.”
That courage was especially prevalent in a snowy game two years ago in Pocatello that Brent Gordon recalls to this day. After the opposing team missed a shot on goal, Sam collided with a boy while going after the ball. That happened three more times before Sam raced down the pitch to attempt her own shot on goal.
“It was the most amazing play for her to battle through four collisions and beat the one that’s left,” Brent Gordon said.