Jaliyah "Jelly" Richards: ‘Compete with the Best’
Jaliyah "Jelly" Richards is an 11-year-old 7th grade football player for the Brick City Lions in New Jersey. In her 5th season of football, she brings her talents to the field on defense and offense, starting at middle linebacker and fullback and also getting reps at tailback.
Jelly’s initial inspiration for playing football was sparked when at age four, she saw another girl on the football field on her older brother’s team. After seeing the possibilities, she envisioned herself on the field and begged her family to play. Her football journey officially began at age seven.
A standout running back and middle linebacker since day one, Jelly has already experienced success in her career. She is recognized as a two-time champion, two-time defensive MVP, and won the 2020 Sportzfarm Most Outstanding Player Award. Breaking barriers along the way, Jelly was also the 1st girl to play in the Dmaxx All-American Games. She has had a productive start to the 2021 season. Jelly also participates in track and will be starting lacrosse next season.
Jelly’s skills speak for themselves as she continues to demonstrate her talent on the field. The team Jelly started her football career with did not have a team available her second year. Jelly had to transition to a different coaching staff. She had the challenge to prove herself again to her new coaches and did. “They had to see for themselves that I could be a running back and linebacker.”
“Girls can play and compete with the best.” Jelly’s team, the Brick City Lions, are the best program in the state of New Jersey and a top 10 team in the United States. Her highlight videos, posted to social media, show her dominating against top teams from Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Her next goal is to be the 1st girl to play in the Big North NJ HS Football Conference.
A fierce competitor, Jelly loves when expectations are removed and opponents bring their best. “I like to travel to play other teams where they don't already know I'm a girl. So they can't say they took it easy on me.” Jelly loves the rush that comes from making tackles and big plays. Jelly also appreciates the close-knit atmosphere that is gained on the field. “It's like adding family members because you end up becoming close with everyone.”
Connections have been formed with female football players at the highest level. The Philadelphia Phantomz of the Women’s National Football Conference have been a solid support system for Jelly as she continues her football career. They have invited her to WNFC games and traveled to watch Jelly play in her National Tournament. With her network of support, competitiveness, and skill, Jelly will continue to dominate in the game and reach her goals.