Calyx Watkins, also known as “Ms. IHOP” & “MaMa”, is a Detroit sixth grader who has played football for five years. The eleven-year-old offensive lineman shines on the field in Michigan for the Champion West 7 Rams. She is also a co-founder of her own clothing line with her offensive lineman brother.
(Article originally featured in August's Championship Special Edition issue of the Women's National Football Conference's HERgame Magazine. Photos: Charlie Scrizzle)
Love of the Game:
Calyx grew up watching her older brother Ja’Kobe play on the offensive line and always believed that football looked like a fun sport. When she was old enough to participate with the Rams, at the age of six, while her brother was on the football field, Calyx went to cheer tryouts. She stayed for 15 minutes of cheer, and then went and told her mom that she wanted to play football.
Ever since she has taken the field, Calyx has enjoyed dominating with her teammates. Her favorite position on the line is right tackle. “I like pancaking the boys and having fun with my friends.” She competes with her teammates for the most pancakes and loves to celebrate quality blocks, especially those leading to touchdowns. She takes pride in her work on the offensive line and has respect for the position group. “Offensive lineman are special because we make plays happen. Without us, the quarterback, running back, or receivers wouldn’t be able to score.”
Game day routine for Calyx involves eating a good breakfast and making sure her uniform is pristine. “My brother helps me get ready so I can look saucy.” She prepares mentally by listening to music on the way to the game. She gets excited when her and her teammates circle up and say their chants before the game before hitting the field. Last year's game day song was “Walk’em Down.”
She also enjoys the travel that goes along with football, and has played at Ford Field and at nationals in Florida. Last season, the West 7 Rams won the 10U Championship. This season, Calyx won the Most Improved Player of the year award.
In the Family:
Calyx’s brother Ja’Kobe is headed into his senior year at Belleville High School, where he has started all three seasons and was named All-Conference 1st Team and All-State as a junior. He is a versatile athlete who plays all five positions on the offensive line. He is currently fielding offers from universities through the recruiting process. Since inspiring her to begin her football career, Ja’Kobe continues to mentor Calyx and help her improve as an athlete. They support each other at competitions, even through in-game adjustments on the sideline.
The duo, who also go by “Mr. IHOP” & “Ms. IHOP”, started a clothing line called Syrup Season to celebrate the impact of offensive lineman on the game of football. “We both are offensive linemen and we love pancaking people and ‘pouring syrup’ on them afterwards.” The theme of “Syrup Season” started out as a family saying at home before competition and transitioned into a brand they are sharing with the world. Ja’Kobe and Calyx’s mission aims to empower young athletes to counteract bullying by confidently embracing their uniqueness and showcasing their distinct skill sets on the field.
Since she started playing five years ago, Calyx has earned major growth as a football player in her skill and knowledge of the game. One of the challenges for Calyx has been people telling her that she shouldn’t be playing football. “I just smile and ignore the comments.” She has increased her confidence in herself and in her identity as a football player. “I used to be scared to tell people I played football because of the negative feedback, but now I am proud to say it! I love football!”
She would encourage others to try football due to the fun and friends on and off the field. Calyx appreciates the connections she has made with others through sports. She is excited about the opportunities that she will have to play football as she becomes an adult and hopes that football will be added as an official Olympic sport. As a dual-sport athlete, Calyx’s future goals are to have a career playing basketball in the WNBA or in professional women’s football.
Calyx is also a supporter of the Women’s National Football Conference and dreams of showcasing her talents at the highest level. “I am excited about the WNFC! I went to a Spartan’s game recently while my brother was on a visit and those ladies can play! I can’t wait to go to another game and hopefully be able to play in the league one day!”