Tia Atkinson couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed when she took the field at Nissan Stadium for the first time several weeks ago.
The rising Page High School senior will be one of the first members of the inaugural girls flag football season in the spring in a partnership between Williamson County Schools and the Tennessee Titans. She spoke to the media and discussed the opportunity to help launch a growing sport as well as just the excitement to play football.
She was one of the nine high school representatives when the pilot program was announced in early June. The league’s first championship will be played at Nissan Stadium.
However, Atkinson will return even sooner as part of the WCS College, Career and Technical program when her and her classmates help broadcast the Titans game against Jacksonville this fall.
“I’m just so excited,” said Atkinson, who also plays soccer for Page. “I’m still kind of shocked about what we get to do.”
Atkinson teamed up with Katelyn Cohee of Renaissance High School to produce a live podcast at the WILLCO Awards on June 15. Cohee is also a member of the first CCT program under the direction of former WCS athletic director Dr. Jeremy Qualls.
“It’s already such an amazing opportunity to be a part of this program in its first year, so this just makes it so exciting,” Cohee said. “This is incredible and something for each of us to highlight on our resumes.”
Qualls and current WCS athletic director Darrin Joines announced the broadcast partnership during the WILLCOs.
Qualls said they met with the Titans and simply wanted to do more. Each student involved in the program was interviewed and went through an application process, he said.
“We talked about this with the Titans,” Qualls said. “This is not an internship. This is not a shadowing deal. This is not a baby-sitting deal. We want these kids to be productive and be members of your team.
“They have been so gracious and now we are starting up a very unique situation.”
Qualls launched the WILLCOs about seven years ago as an ESPYS-style, red-carpet event and hasn’t let off the gas in terms of creativity in his new role as director of the CCT.
“This is a work-based learning placement program,” he said. “We call it Outside the Lines.
“The first day out of school, they showed up at the entrepreneurship center and started working. I literally had to say, ‘I’m going home, y’all need to leave.’ They stayed the entire day and worked.”
Other members of the program include Brooks Taylor of Ravenwood and McKinley Johnson of Summit.
Taylor, who worked as a videographer for several major WCS events like the Titans partnership for flag football announcement and the WILLCOs, said the program allows students like him “to follow their passions outside the lines of the sports fields.”
“We are hoping to make this program something where the students following us can find their career paths,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to do this and kind of set the precedent for the future.”
The program is in its infancy, but that’s what makes it kind of interesting, Cohee said.
“We’re all along for the ride,” she said. “We’re excited to see where it goes from here.”
Working alongside the Titans broadcast team for a home NFL game is on that path.
“This is a year of learning for all of us so we’ll go out and see what we can do,” Atkinson said.