Female quarterback Madeleine Northern out to prove she belongs

By Gavin Porter | Posted 5/12/2016

Every time she steps onto a football field, Madeleine Northern is motivated to prove she belongs.

As a freshman quarterback at Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wis., earning respect isn’t easy.

“It’s been hard getting into the teams. The guys don’t really accept me sometimes, and the coaches have been tough,” the 15 year-old Madeleine said. “But I got through every single year with the love this sport, and I’m going to keep going.”

Madeleine joined more than 200 boys recently at USA Football’s Regional Development Camp in Milwaukee.

Being the only girl suited up with alongside boys isn’t anything new for her though.

“I’m the only girl on my team. That’s how it’s been for the past three years,” she said. “When I walk on the field and they see my hair, they just look at me and don’t say anything. Once they are out on the field with me, sometimes they whistle or talk trash. I just have to block that out and keep playing. I have to show them what I can do.”

At first the negative attention weighed on Madeleine, but now all the verbal jabs and sideways glances only add fuel to her fire.

“It motivates me, and I don’t think people realize that,” she said. “They think that if they keep saying hurtful things to me that it’ll make me want to quit, or it’ll make me want to stop doing what I do. But it pushes me to get better and to keep competing against them.”

Suiting up with a chip on her shoulder was easy. Developing her mindset took longer, said her father, Christopher Northern.

“I told her that that she was going to walk into a new environment and have to earn respect,” he said. “She can’t control what people say, but she can work harder than everybody else and make them believers.”

His support has kept her going, and he continues to work with her as she hones her craft.

“My dad helps me a lot. He’s probably my biggest supporter in this,” Madeleine said. “We go over the little things like footwork and form. We also lift together. Without him, I’m not sure how far I would have made it.”

According to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, 24 girls played tackle football throughout the state during the 2014-2015 season. The WIAA is not aware of any that played quarterback, however.

Just as she was ready to become likely the only female quarterback in Wisconsin high school football, Madeleine suffered a major setback. During a practice before her freshman season, she dislocated the elbow on her throwing arm.

“I heard her scream from the sideline. I could tell it was going to be serious,” said Christopher Northern, who is a sports physicians assistant. “The next few months all she did was work her butt off. She rehabbed, stretched and did physical therapy without complaining once. She is as tough as they get.”

But the setback couldn’t keep her off the field forever. With a J.J. Watt-style brace supporting her right arm, Madeleine was able to play in a few games at the end of the season.

What started as a way to prove she could play football, Madeleine has now found her passion. She believes the game has tremendous value and learned much from the sport.

“Football has taught me to stay strong, to work with teams, get involved with different groups,” Madeleine said. “Even if the people don’t really want you playing you have to show them that you can do it.”