MESQUITE, Texas – A suburban Dallas boy has been barred from playing peewee football because the league says he is just too big at nearly 300 pounds.
Mesquite Pee Wee Football Association President Ronnie Henderson said the rules are clear and 12-year-old Elijah Earnheart is not eligible. The 6-foot-1-inch boy exceeds the 135-pound limit for seventh-graders, and he got the bad news last Sunday when the league held its official weigh-in.
Henderson said he asked Elijah whether he was in sixth or seventh grade, then told him "no need going" any further.
Cindy Earnheart, the boy's mother, said she was incensed and Elijah was humiliated.
"They would not even let him weigh in on the scales like every single boy out there," she said. "He might be the size of a grown man but he's 12 years old and he has feelings, too."
Elijah, who describes himself as a "gentle giant" and dreams of someday playing pro football, said the turn of events was unfair.
"I'm not sad, I'm mad that I don't get to play," Elijah said. "I've been practicing for three weeks."
Henderson said three other boys were turned away that day because of safety concerns for other players.
"We've got little boys that play against him that are 85, 95 and 100 pounds," Henderson said. "We have to look out for all the kids, not just him."
Cindy Earnheart said her son was feeling self-conscious about his size until he discovered peewee football. His barber happened to coach a team, the Mesquite Vikings, and suggested the boy join. Coach Marc Wright said a passage in the rulebook seemed to indicate that youths who weigh more than 135 pounds could play, but only on the offensive or defensive line.
At his physical last month, Elijah's doctor said he weighed 297 pounds and stood 6-feet-1½ inches tall. His mother said they special-ordered his helmet, shoulder pads, pants and jersey because of his size, which she said is hereditary in her family.
Elijah took the practice field, looming over boys more than half his size, and was thrilled..
When he's playing football Elijah said, "I feel energetic. I feel happy."
He practiced with the Vikings for three weeks and even took part in a scrimmage. Then came the weigh-in.
Henderson said the exception in the rulebook was meant for sixth-graders who can weigh as much as 160 pounds. He suggested Elijah play for his middle school team, but the boy doesn't have much football experience and was hoping to feel his way in peewee first.
Cindy Earnheart said barring her son was discrimination.
"No one is telling boys who are too thin or too small that they can't play football," she said. "Why tell my kid he's too big?
She added: "Isn't bigger better in football? Football is a contact sport. If you don't want your son tackled, get him off the field."