It will be on the soil at Robert T. Roy Field on the campus of Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School that Cammy Garabian will play her final football game on Thanksgiving Day.
Donning the blue and gray of Seekonk High School, the nationally renowned track star will place an exclamation mark on four seasons of representing the Warriors as No. 77 on the football field.
And what makes it especially unique and notable is that Garabian is one of just a handful of female student-athletes across the state who play football, and almost all the others are placekickers or reserve wide receivers.
“When I asked my mom (Kristen) can I play, she said two things — ‘You can’t quit and you can’t cry,’” Garabian said.
Garabian has been starting for two years, has been a three-year member of the varsity team on both the offensive and defensive lines and serves as a team co-captain.
“She’s our top lineman, she’s a great athlete and she loves to compete,” said Vernon Crawford, Seekonk High’s head coach. “She’s dedicated and she’s committed — you just look at the work that she puts in.”
The Ivy League-bound Garabian is ranked in the top 10 nationally among female shot putters and discus throwers, among the elite of the elite in her trade.
Garabian captured the No. 5 spot with the discus in her hands at the New Balance National Meet in the spring. She is the reigning SCC Outdoor Meet champion in both the shot put (42-7) and discus (116-8), and the defending MIAA State Division 3 champion in both the shot put (38-3) and discus (130-4).
All of that is coming off winning both the MIAA State Meet (43-8 1/4) and New England Meet (43-7 3/4) indoor shot put titles, after setting Seekonk High and MIAA divisional meet records with the shot put (44-1/2).
Garabian played baseball until the sixth grade and always played soccer, but back in grade school, some kids on the fields kept asking her why she didn’t play football.
“I always liked to compete and play sports, so I thought I’d give it a try,” she said. “I love football. I love the hitting. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s energetic and I love the camaraderie. All of my teammates are so great, they’re my best friends. It’s such a great atmosphere. They have my back.”
Garabian has played football since the third grade, when she was part of the Blackstone Valley Youth Football program, of which Seekonk was a member town.
“I don’t know how many female football players there are in Massachusetts, or nationwide for that matter,” said her father, Mark Garabian. “This was really a unique situation, so we have to give credit to her coaches and teammates who have made participating in football such a great experience for her.
“From the very first practice at Seekonk High, she was welcomed to the team. She has been treated as an equal every day since, for which we are so proud of the great young men on the team who accepted her for who she is — her teammates are a big part of her story.”
Garabian played right tackle on the offensive line during her sophomore and junior years and moved to the left side as a senior, while also being in the rotation on the defensive line.
“She plays at such a high level, too,” Crawford continued. “Some of that has to do with her family, her mom and dad, her sister (Katie, a junior at UMass-Amherst), her brother (Zach, who also wore No. 77 at Seekonk High and at UMass-Amherst). You will never, ever hear anyone with a bad thing to say about those kids. (It’s) just the way that they were brought up and raised.
“That shows in Cammy. So we’re not surprised at all by what she’s accomplished — both on the football field and in track.”
In truth, every member of the Seekonk High football team looks to Garabian as their model teammate and sister.
“She has that band of Warrior brothers beside her,” Crawford said, noting that is particularly true on the practice field, at team meetings in the locker room and on the bus. Her leadership and motivational skills shine through.
“She has to use not just her brute strength, but her smarts in playing those positions on the line,” Crawford said.
“She is a blue-collar kid with her work ethic,” he said. “When she’s out there on the field, we know that she can handle her own — she’s a special lady!”
Garabian said she was never afforded any special treatment.
“Nobody treated me differently because I was a girl,” she said. “The coaches didn’t single me out — they wanted me to just be a member of the team.
“They were all very encouraging — there was never a question of me not playing.”
Even Seekonk High track coaches Frank Mooney and Matt McCartin support Garabian’s decision to compete on the gridiron.
“They probably would rather not have me play football, but they’re very encouraging,” Garabian said. “They know that I love it, so they’re okay with it.
“And all the parents of my teammates through the years — they’ve been awesome, they’ve been so supportive, like my parents. My mom and dad are always in the stands for football or track meets — it wouldn’t be the same without them.”
Garabian watches as much film of herself playing football as she does reviewing her technique of shot putting or unleashing the discus for track.
“I’ve always been taught how to watch film,” she said.” With track though, you’re watching yourself. But with football it’s a little more complex, there’s 10 other guys on the team.”
Garabian never considered playing football in college, though the collegiate coaches who have come to review her in track and watch her play football have been supportive of her athletic career — in any arena or field.
“They all say that it’s pretty cool for a girl to be playing football,” she said. “Coaches would have to help me refine my skills a lot more if I played football in college. But, all of the (track) coaches that I’ve talked with were fine with it if I wanted to pursue it.”
Playing youth football, Garabian drew some inquiries from across the line of scrimmage.
“Like the first couple of years, (there was) ‘Hey, that’s a girl over there.’ But, they didn’t care, we were just playing football,” she said. “You’d see it in their eyes — is she a girl? But, after I hit them they learned that I was for real!”
Garabian also drew stares and long looks taking for the field for Seekonk High in South Coast Conference competition. And because of her stature as one of the premier track athletes in the conference, opponents took notice.
“At first they saw me playing junior varsity football,” she said. “People never really said stuff to me, I never had any trouble. Maybe once in a while, shaking hands after a game and going through the line, someone might say, ‘You’re good for a girl.’ I think that some people expected me to quit.”
Garabian did — for one week at the start of her sophomore football season.
“I thought that I’d focus on track, but football was so much fun to play,” she said. “It was a great decision — being on the bus rides, being in the locker room, on the practice field — everything about football is fun.
“You have to have motivation, you have to have dedication. There have been some miserable days out there for practice, in the rain, in the cold or I’m tired. But, it’s worth it — playing football is never really unpleasant.”
Garabian has had her share of bumps and bruises.
“I’ve been banged up, but that’s football,” she said. “I just love football, the whole team spirit thing. It’s not an individual sport like track. Not that it’s stress-free. It’s just that it’s a different dynamic.”
“Football is stressful too and I get yelled at by the coaches as much as my teammates,” she said of executing the playbook, making the blocks, making the tackles.
“Really, I think that my situation at Seekonk High as a football player was the best possible outcome. If my teammates or my coaches were different, then maybe it wouldn’t have worked out for me.
“I’m not just a track person, I’m one of the guys on the football team!”