Ashley Burdette grew up watching her brother playing football, and it always looked like a sport she would love.
This year, she took that love another step and joined the Radford High School football team.
“I used to go to all his rec league practices and throw the football on the sideline. Before I started playing, I’d still never miss a game, even if it meant traveling to Honaker to watch him play,” she said.
The junior has been playing wide receiver and special teams. Recently, she even scored on a two-point conversion.
Her brother, Eric, finished his Radford career last season, so Ashley has had to break down barriers of being the only female on the team by herself.
“I’d love to say it’s not any different than anybody else playing, but it’s a little frustrating sometimes,” she said. “Trying to find a place to change and use the bathroom is always difficult. Some things are harder than others but everything’s all worth it in the end. Getting to run out on the field with my team on Friday nights makes it all worth it.”
She said her teammates and coaches have treated her just like everybody else, and she really appreciates it.
“They do the best they can and push me to be the best person and player I can be,” she said.
When asked what type of advice her brother has given her, she joked that he said not to play. Instead she wants to simply to be best she can be, again like other players her age.
“I love our team chemistry and camaraderie. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of,” she said.
But this is more than just a football game for Burdette and her family. Eric’s real battle was off the field when he was diagnosed with cancer last fall. Following an injury on the field, doctors told him he had Stage II HHHHodgkin’s Lymphoma. His football career was over.
After six months of chemo, he beat the odds and was ruled to be cancer free. He played in the spring on the RHS baseball team.
Watching him battle cancer was the craziest thing Ashley said that she ever experienced.
“He’s the strongest person I’ve ever met, and he’s always been a huge part of my life. Throughout his battle with cancer, he stayed motivated and determined to beat it. He didn’t let cancer bring him down. He made it build him up,” she said.
According to Ashley, Eric’s battle taught her to stay strong through every battle.
“He taught me to be a role model for others and inspire everyone I can.”
Now, she takes that positive attitude to the gridiron as a member of the Bobcat football team that only has one loss this season with two games to go before a path into the regional playoffs.