Vanessa Mariani is the only one on the Costa Mesa Pop Warner Junior Mighty Mite team with the double-X chromosome.
Coach Erik Koste, though, just calls Vanessa the "X" player. And it's because of the extra effort she puts in on the field.
"She's our 'X' player and there's very few of them," Koste said. "What it is, it's a player that plays both ways all the time. People in the backfield can't be an 'X' player because if you're an 'X' player, you're not allowed to touch the ball. She's so unselfish that she's not worried about carrying the ball … she could easily be the best running back on the team, too. But I think she just likes to be out there so much."
Vanessa, 8, is in her second year playing football. She plays guard on offense and another very important position — middle linebacker — on defense. She's a team captain and, in Koste's estimation, one of the top players on the team.