Trailblazer: Why Dr. Phillips QB Olivia Cadiz’s All-American honor is just the start

Olivia Cadiz has been selected to the inaugural class of All-Americana to play in the U.S. Army Bowl flag football game in Dallas.

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As flag football rises in popularity, the number of females participating at every level of the game is growing every day in America. 

But it wasn’t too long ago that Dr. Phillip High’s Olivia Cadiz felt she needed to fight to keep playing the game she loved.

“I remember starting to love the game when I was about 10 years old,” she said. “I would watch Tom Brady, and I would play football in the front yard with my cousin. I just wanted to keep playing football; I didn’t want it to end playing in the front yard.”

Inspired by Brady’s relentless pursuit despite being overlooked, Cadiz decided not to let her dream die.

“Nobody really believed in (Brady) when he started,” Cadiz said. “He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest or the strongest. And so I was like, ‘I’m not going to let that stop me, either.’ So, I decided to go out for my middle school tackle football team, and I just fought for that and made the team. I was the third-string quarterback. I wasn’t the fastest and strongest, but I was relentless, and so I’ve always connected to that part of Brady’s story.”

Fast-forward a few years later, and Cadiz has done more than just keep her love for playing football alive. She has blazed trails for those girls coming behind her. 

And now, her mountain of achievements — leading Dr. Phillips flag football to back-to-back district championships, signing to play flag football in college and becoming the first female quarterback in DP varsity football history — adds one more historic honor: All-American.

Cadiz has been selected as one of 20 young women to participate in the inaugural U.S. Army Bowl All-American flag football game in Dallas. The game is part of one of the country’s premier high school football all-star festivities — the U.S. Army Bowl. 

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Although Cadiz is certainly proud of this and her other achievements, another memory stands as the one she’s most proud of in her playing career. In fact, that memory isn’t even about herself playing.

“It was at a combine in Plant City,” she said. “There was this young girl there and she was absolutely amazing. I was watching her throw the football … she was probably like 10 years old … and she was just phenomenal. I don’t remember being that good when I was 10. I could just see that in this girl’s eyes. She thought she was the best, and I certainly had never seen a 10-year-old quarterback better than her. It was pretty cool to see her throwing dimes at that age. … It was cool to see that she was putting in that much work and had that passion; it reminded me of myself.”

But unlike that girl at this camp, when Cadiz was that age, she didn’t have a female quarterback as a role model.

“When we started to scrimmage, you could obviously see this girl had a good arm, but I noticed she wasn’t the best at decision-making,” Cadiz said. “And at first, she was like kind of quiet and timid. But eventually, she came up to me and asked me a bunch of questions. You could see over the camp her mindset go from, ‘I thought I was the best,’ (to) actually, ‘I have a lot to learn, and I have a lot to learn from this girl.’ At the end of the camp, she told me that one day, she hopes to be as good as I am, and I really just was like, ‘Wow.’ When I was younger, there were no girls to look up to, and it’s just insane that I get to be one of those girls that at least that one girl got to look up to.”

That 10-year-old is one of many Cadiz has impacted. Her DP coach, Anthony Jones, said her desire for helping those around her is special, even relentless.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s during the season or if it’s the offseason, she’s always calling some of her teammates to go run routes with her,” Jones said. 

“She’s an overachiever, and I’ve never seen an athlete in flag football who was always that determined to get better and help her teammates get better. Like literally, we’ll dismiss the kids, and she doesn’t leave. She stays back, telling her teammates that they need to stay and do some more work on their routes. And that’s at every single practice.” 

Jones said Cadiz’s kind of leadership leaves an imprint on a program and leads to wins. 

“She’s the kind of person (who) makes an entire program go, because of her leadership on the field,” Jones said. “She’s very highly respected. So when she asks her team to stay back and run some routes, they’re going to do that. The impact and respect that she’s earned from her teammates has gone a long way in helping us win games.” 

Along with her talent, Cadiz’s leadership and relentlessness are the main reasons she’s been able to keep playing the game she loves beyond the limits of her front yard. They’re the main reasons she’s an All-American. 

They’re the main reasons she’s going to play flag football in college — at Ottawa University, a program that has won 92% of its games and three consecutive NAIA national championships. 

They’re also going to be the main reasons Cadiz could end up achieving her biggest goal of them all: Bring home the flag football gold medal at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @SamBAlbuquerque
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Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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