The confidence of Karlie Harman, a sophomore at John Champe High School in Aldie, would make any parent proud.
Doubt seems a notion that rarely furrows her young brow, yet she also understands the pitfalls of being cocky. Karlie at just 16 has had a whirlwind of experiences already – athlete, celebrity, fundraiser for veterans – yet she remains grounded.
Much has been written about Karlie’s prowess on the football gridiron, where she played quarterback, safety and kicker for her Dulles South Youth Sports team. But getting on the field first required persuading her father.
“I’ve always wanted to play football, but my dad wasn’t really into it,” she explained.
As her mother, Karen Harman puts it, “Karlie was born with sneakers on her feet. She’s always been the crazy, athletic girl.”
So after winning a punt, pass and kick competition, Karlie’s dad gave her permission to play for a year.
“That year went really well,” Karlie said, explaining that her team made it to the championship. That led to permission for another year, and eventually to the opportunity to play during an event at Redskins Park that featured VETSports, a nonprofit that helps veterans stay on their favorite sports fields or courts.
Watching the athletes play despite their injuries sounded a note in Karlie’s heart.
“Just seeing what they’re going through, and to see them enjoy playing sports on the field was inspirational,” Karlie said.
It was enough to prompt Karlie to become a fundraiser for VETSports. Being a jewelry lover, she decided to launch a website to sell inspirational jewelry with half of all profits going to VETSports. In addition, she collects donations for the group, 100 percent of which support their cause.
Next, Karlie’s mother told her about the NFL’s Together We Make Football program aimed at finding great stories about young athletes. Karlie entered, a video was made about her story and then she moved on to basketball, playing for her high school varsity team.
Then someone called and asked her to be at Redskins Park in Ashburn for a special event. She was excited to get to watch the team, which included Robert Griffin III at the time, practice.
“When I saw them playing on the field, I tried to take a picture of him, not realizing he would give me the football,” she said during a recent interview. RGIII gave her a team ball and informed her she was a finalist in the Together We Make Football competition.
“That was awesome,” she said, touting what few other teenagers can about RGIII. “Now, we’re friends.”
In the end, Karlie, came in second in the contest, but her story won the attention of Proctor & Gamble. The company asked her to be their ambassador at the Super Bowl in Phoenix where she met members of the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots as well as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
However, it was doing a related event with the Today Show that she met one of her favorite celebrities, Katy Perry.
Asked if she felt comfortable in the limelight, she quickly responds, “Oh yeah.”
Karlie has given up football, but still loves team sports. She tried swimming, but prefers more physical sports.
“I like contact,” she said, offering a glimpse at some of her potential future endeavors. “I’ve always wanted to do boxing or cage fighting.”
She’s a huge fan of Rhonda Rousey, but criticized the former UFC champ and Olympian for her exuding too much confidence before losing her championship belt to Holly Holm.
“You can’t underestimate people,” Karlie said, adding that she believed Rousey’s criticism of Holm ahead of the fight was over the top. However, she admits, “I probably would have done the same thing.”
And that’s because Karlie likes to win. “It’s like a natural high,” she said.
Despite all the celebrity hobnobbing, Karlie still enjoys the same things most other teens do. She likes to watch the Vampire Diaries and recently began to binge on Friday Night Lights.
And she’s working this summer at a local movie theatre.
To check out Karlie’s jewelry or to donate to VETSports, visit www.karlienoelle.com.