Brianna Jones has found success in sports that stereotypically were never meant for girls to play.
Jones is breaking barriers as she has thrived in the traditional boy-only sports of football and wrestling.
She enters her senior year at Klein Oak looking to get back to state again for the wrestling team. She has been rewarded for her hard work on the mat, committing to wrestle at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas.
“It’s amazing,” Jones said. “I’ve worked so hard to get to wrestle in college and continue my career. I didn’t think I would be able to. All the practice and hard work has paid off.”
Of all the players who have come through, McCullough, coach Mark Johnson will always remember Brianna Jones.
“I ran through the middle. I had guys dragging on me but I kept going through,” Jones said. “Then I knocked a kid down and finished it.”
In Jones’ first seventh grade football game, Johnson lined her up at nose tackle – she blew through the line and tackled the quarterback and running back at the same time.
On her first offensive play of that same game, Johnson watched as Jones carried the ball 40 yards, ran over five defenders and scored.
“She’s one of my most memorable football players of all time because that girl is tough,” Johnson said. “She just went and didn’t care. I wish I had a million of them just like her. She’s a tough, hard-nosed person.”
While Jones was having fun playing running back, defensive end and right guard through middle school, there were tough times that came with it.
When she first walked into a football practice at McCullough Junior High and Klein Oak High School there was chatter.
“It’s a girl.”
“She’s not going to do anything.”
Once she made a play, however, all the talk ended.
“When I made my first hit at McCullough, when I made my first hit at Klein Oak, words stopped,” Jones said. “Words changed. They realized, never mind. They’d hit me and I’d get right back up.”
In the hallways of McCullough Junior High though, it was a battle she couldn’t just hit someone to get out of.
Jones admitted she was bullied at school because of the sports she played. There were names she was called and didn’t really get along with other girls.
“I just didn’t let it get to me,” Jones said.
Overcoming all of the outside noise, Jones played a full season of football in seventh and eighth grade before moving to Klein Oak High School for her freshman year.
That’s where former Klein Oak coach David Smith first saw her.
“Her demeanor. The way she talked,” Smith said in a 2015 interview with ABC13 about Jones. “She said the right things, like a boy who was serious. She won me over.”
Jones played her freshman season at Klein Oak, and per Smith’s instructions, she sought out a second sport in the offseason.
Wrestling was the one that came to mind, a sport she had never competed in. Her experience in football paid off on the mat though.
“It gave me the aggression,” Jones said. “I came into wrestling with pure aggression. That’s one of the biggest steps in wrestling is having aggression and strength. Football gave me all of it. It trained me to take hits and give hits.”
Jones finished her freshman campaign as a district champion.
Because of her love of aggressive sports and the hits and slams she was laying out on people, coaches gave her the nickname “Beastie” Jones.
“I love it,” Jones said of the nickname, which is stitched onto her state jacket and tattooed on her left thigh. “I enjoy it because that’s just who I am. That’s how I want to come off. I want to come off like I’m a beast.”
After having a successful spring in wrestling, Jones made the decision to walk away from football.
“It was heart-breaking.” Jones said. “Everyday I’d watch them running out with cleats. I’d sit there and always want to go back. But I knew that I needed to focus on one thing.”
Focusing on one sport paid off last spring when Jones made it to the UIL State Wrestling Tournament, where she finished fifth in the Class 6A-128 weight class.
“I love showing to every female out there that you can do it,” Jones said. “If you want to do it, do it. Everybody’s going to try and say you can’t. They’re going to say ‘you’re a girl, you’re not strong enough’.”
Jones admits she’s had other female athletes tell her that she’s inspired them to try out for football and wrestle. Being a role model for other athletes is something Jones loves and she never wants any girl to think they can’t compete in aggressive sports.
“I am so proud of her,” Johnson said. “I’m like a dad who’s proud of their kid, because she was one of the first girls to play on my team. She was amazing.”
This article appears in the 2018 December Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy at any one of our locations today!