Trinity Chavez, 17, stood on the sidelines seconds before kickoff with her McCollum Cowboys teammates at Harlandale Memorial Stadium, arms raised high as fans cheered in the stands. Trinity wore her dark green number 80 jersey, blue jeans and brown boots while she watched the Cowboys lose to the Floresville Tigers, 31-17.
Following the game, Trinity praised her teammates for their effort on the defensive side of the ball. She could not play that night because of a foot and hip injury but she was there to support the team.
“No matter what, football will forever and always be a part of me.”
“We got two interceptions and I was just so excited,” Trinity said. “Our coaches told us we needed some [interceptions] and it was amazing that was happening.”
Trinity is not the first female player on McCollum’s team but is the first to play on the defensive line. Football caught her interest at the end of freshman year when she attended the varsity games.
Turning to football meant Trinity had to part ways with volleyball – a sport she has played since she was four years old – because the season interferes with football.
“It was hard. I still haven’t thrown away my volleyball shoes. I’ll see the volleyball players setting up the net and I remember when I used to do that,” Trinity said. “Not too long ago, I went to a volleyball game for my friends that had went to my middle school and I got heartbroken.”
But at the end of her freshman year she developed a passion for football and even when injuries prevent her from playing, she attends every game. Trinity says it’s important for her to give her team mates support.
Her mother, Valerie Chavez, describes Trinity as a “team mom.” And Trinity describes her teammates as brothers. “It works both ways because I will help them out if they are in the training room. I will push them around or tell them stuff and they will tell me back. We’ll crack jokes here and there, but yeah, it is a brotherhood.”
Trinity has to adapt and follow different patterns than the male players.
“I’m pretty much always late to lunch,” Trinity added. “[The boys’] locker room is closer to the field… Their showers are in their lockers rooms, so right after practice, they can just go. But for me, I have to go to the main gym to shower.”
“She had surgery but, that same day, she was out cheering her team on,” her father said.
When healthy, the 5’2 and 175 lb. lineman is fighting through a wall made up of five burly boys protecting the quarterback.
Trinity’s parents, Luis and Valerie, were surprised by Trinity’s position as defensive lineman, who are typically known to be the largest players on the field.
“I actually went and bought her a football and tee,” Luis Chavez said. “And I told her, ‘Let’s go practice kicking because that’s where they are probably going to put you.’ She came back a few days later and said, ‘I’m on defense.’ It was a shock but it was pretty cool,” he said.
Initially, Trinity’s teammates were hesitant to clash with her during practice and spring ball. Her teammates were not available for interviews, but Carlos Santiago, the defensive line coach, said it was offensive to Trinity because it prepared her for failure come game time. Santiago made it clear to the team that Trinity knew the risks of football when she signed up.
“Trinity wasn’t hesitant to hit any of the guys and attacked every drill with confidence,” Santiago said. “I treated her the same way I treated the boys, and I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t.”
Trinity endured the two-a-day practices, spring ball and weight room workouts which earned her a spot on junior varsity and in this season, varsity.
Despite their support, Trinity’s parents were worried about sports-related injuries. Trinity suffered her first injury at practice prior to the 2015- 2016 season, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL).
“She had surgery but, that same day, she was out cheering her team on,” her father said. “It’s just kind of amazing… anytime she has an ailment or injury she just wants to get over it and go.”
The physical setback combined with her academic workload, plagued Trinity emotionally. Before she could step on the field she had to learn how to walk and run again. The recovery process was time-consuming but Santiago said Trinity bounced back from her season-ending injury “tremendously.”
Off the field, Trinity juggles academics, college applications and is a member of The National Honor Society (NHS). She often stays up until 1:00 a.m. working on homework and wakes up to prepare for school by 6:00 a.m.
Santiago teaches 11th grade English and Trinity credits him for pushing her academically. Although Santiago didn’t teach Trinity, he recommended her for the honor society.
“I do keep tabs on her grades and I felt like it was my job that they (NHS) knew what I know about her,” Santiago said. “She’s relentless out here on the field, and she’s relentless out there in the classroom.”
Trinity says the training room is like a second home where she can crack jokes with athletic trainer Maria Lara, who is like her best friend. Like Lara, Trinity plans to study sports medicine at Baylor University where she can still have an influence on the football field.
“She (Lara) has made an impact in my life, and has opened my eyes to realize that I love helping others and love the sport of football,” Trinity said. “No matter what, football will forever and always be a part of me.”