Living the Dream – EA Sports Today

Oxford Flag quarterback Lindsey always wanted to play the position ‘because I have the arm for it’

Oxford quarterback Gabrielle Lindsey takes a snap during the Lady Jackets’ semi-final win over Vestavia Hills earlier this month. (Photo by Mike Lett). Cover photo by Bo Hudgins.

By Mark Everett Kelly
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD- Gabrielle Lindsey stands out in any crowd. The freshman quarterback for the Oxford girls’ flag football team is over 6ft tall and loves to show off her rocket arm.

“I’ve always wanted to play QB because I have the arm for it,” she says.

AHSAA flag football
Wednesday, 2 p.m
Jordan Hare Stadium

Lindsey will flaunt that arm in Wednesday’s biggest game of her career when she leads the Oxford offense in the second flag football state championship game against Auburn High at the varsity’s Jordan Hare Stadium. It will be the Lady Jackets’ first trip to the finals after coming so close the year before.

Lindsey’s soccer background includes playing soccer in the fifth grade in a city league.

“I was taller than most of them,” she said. “First they teased me, but then they saw that I could play.”

In 2021, Oxford joined Anniston as the only school in Calhoun County (60 statewide) to compete in the state’s inaugural flag football season.

When coach Wes Brooks found out about the new league, whose interest in the job was so that he could spend more time with his daughters (Sawyer and Payton), he reached out to Christy Shepard.

Brooks’ coaching career has been one of exceptional accomplishment since Josh Niblett hired him as defensive line coach and head baseball coach at Oxford in 2005. An athlete exceptional at Wellborn and Jacksonville State, Brooks is one of only 16 baseball head coaches to have won 500 games in Alabama.

Shepard was the GM and star offensive lineman for the WFA’s Alabama Fire. She was in administration over in Oxford and is now Head of Human Resources. Both Shepard and her brother, former NBA All-Star Gerald Wallace, attended Childersberg High School.

“Christy knew her mom and that Gabrielle played 7-on-7 boys flag football,” Brooks said. “I emailed her and she immediately emailed me back saying it was a trial and you needed to do a trial.”

It didn’t take long for Lindsey to impress the coaching staff at the auditions.

“One of the soccer balls found its way to Gabrielle, who picked it up and returned a bullet.” Brooks explained. “She knew it was her chance to show what she could do.”

Jake Hammond, the son of former MLB pitcher Chris Hammond and Brooks’ assistant coach in 2021, said on the spot, “I think we got ourselves a QB.”

The Lady Jackets offense features a two-headed monster quarterback; Lindsey and Reygan White. White leads in rushing yards (737) and touchdowns (21), while Lindsey leads in passing yards (1,721) and TDs (21).

“She (Lindsey) is an OK runner, but not a broken game runner,” Brooks said. “When the piece is set for a run, she does that much better.”

Oxford have outscored their opponents by 335 points this season while averaging 21.6 points per game. His weapons are numerous. Xai Whitfield’s athleticism (58 receptions, 690 yards, 16 TD) is on par with Randy Moss, while Ashlyn Burns (38-420 rushing, 21-399 receiving and 11 total touchdowns) is multidimensional.

The expanded game plan of Lady Jackets depends on the ability of the players to make the right adjustments. During his years at Oxford, Brooks coached many NFL players (Kwon Alexander, Bobby McCain and Tae Davis) while coaching with John Grass, Todd Bates and Niblett.

While most people get confused when understanding football’s advanced terminology, Lindsey and her teammates have adapted well.

“I love learning about X and O,” said Lindsey, whose favorite player is Najee Harris. “It’s not really difficult for me because I love football and I grew up watching it and studying the plays.”

Their ability to act on both sides of the ball impresses the 44-year-old head coach.

“We run a complex Tampa Bay (Buccaneers) defense system with multiple checkdowns and pre-play moves,” said Brooks, whose defense allowed just six total points in winning their two playoff games. “Their intelligence and ability to adapt and correct mistakes are sensational.”

Players and coaches noticed that Lindsey’s ability to adjust shots with touch and read defenses improved from last season.

“We lost a game against Vestavia where they had a climbing route and they had to read the safety. Normally I would tell her what to look out for, but for some reason I didn’t,” Brooks said. “She started pocketing the ball and running, but at the last minute she found an open receiver and I knew she was starting to learn and think for herself.”

How much more can the Lady Jackets ask from someone just beginning to understand their talent? According to Brooks, the sky is the limit.

“As she gets older, she gets better at finding the third/fourth recipient and when to lie down and run,” he said. “When she gets to that point, she will be unstoppable.”

Development is essential for a quarterback leading a team, but often we are our own harshest critic. How does Lindsey rate her improvement? “I used to have trouble running and throwing deep, but now I’m more comfortable with it,” says Lindsey, who dreamed of becoming an Oxford quarterback since she was a teenager.

Yes she is.