Radiant Sykes, JV Cornerback for Lake Central, always runs onto the field with passion, pride, and purpose. Whether it’s fully padded up for her game, or in a jersey and shorts while joining the Varsity team onto the field for a clash underneath those Friday night lights, Sykes is always running with the adrenaline of game day coursing through her veins.
Sykes is fully aware it’s rare for a female player to play High School Football, and even rarer to play a position where tackling is her main objective. But all the trials and fires she’s had to go through are worth it for that rush to get on the field and hit someone.
“It’s fun throwing guys by their shoulder pads when they try to block me,” Sykes told IIMM.
The excitement of the game, Sykes said, is something that runs in her family’s DNA. It’s a sport she came to admire and love through watching her brothers out on the field on game days.
And for a game so revered in the Sykes’ household, it was only a matter of time before Radiant wanted to get in on the action.
“I always had a natural connection with football,” Sykes told IIMM. “I became interested in the sport after seeing my brothers out there making tackles and pushing people around. Football is taken very seriously in this household, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
And while her family members were the ones that initially got her into the sport, Sykes says it’s her other family, her teammates at Lake Central, that keep her motivated to chase her dreams for as long as she possibly can play.
“My teammates think it is so cool that I am playing,” Sykes said. “They are all helpful and supportive, and whenever I have a question they are always there to answer it. “
She credits one teammate, in particular, for helping stick through it when she first started and learning her new position at cornerback when it wasn’t always easy.
“It’s taken me awhile to find a position I was truly comfortable with,” Sykes, who started out as a lineman in Junior High, added. “But when I first came to Lake Central a teammate of mine, Dan Diaz, was a great help. He gave me a ton of great confidence with my new position.”
Now, fully settled into her role, Sykes says she can look back and be extremely grateful to have become the player, and the person, she is today.
“Playing football has made me a stronger person, both physically and mentally,” Sykes said. “Despite all the pain and the tears that may happen from time-to-time, I will always enjoy doing what I love the most.”
And what she loves the most is being out on the field, just another jersey among 10 others out there of the same color with the same school emblazoned on the front.
Football has now become a part of who Radiant is; a part that will never leave her.
“I will play this game for as long as I can possibly play it.”
Article by Steven Neville. Photos via Anna Hanson.