By Walter Villa
Hannah Schaible firmly believes she was born too soon.
Nicknamed “Hannah Joe Montana" by her coach, the 5-foot-9 junior at Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) already has led her school to two state titles in basketball. But her true calling may actually be on the gridiron.
“I joke around with my parents,” the 17-year-old Schaible said. “I predict that as soon as I graduate from college, flag football will become (an NCAA sport), and games will be televised and everything.”
Last year, Schaible, a quarterback, earned the Miss Florida Flag Football award after setting a state record with 50 touchdown passes. She also ran for 22 scores and led Dr. Phillips to an 18-1 record and a state title.
Through Dr. Phillips’ first three games this year -- all wins -- Schaible has passed for 10 touchdowns and rushed for two more.
And it’s not like she had a lot of time to warm up.
Schaible helped lead Dr. Phillips to a 72-50 win over Krop (Miami, Fla.) in the Class 8A girls’ basketball state title game at the end of last month. Schaible, a guard, had 12 points 13 rebounds and five assists in the game.
“Whatever we need, she does,” said Anthony Jones, who coaches Schaible in both basketball and flag football. “If (it) looks like we’re going to throw the basketball out of bounds, she comes flying in like Superman to save the day.”
Dr. Phillips is currently No. 22 in the POWERADE FAB 50 girls’ basketball national rankings and will defend its title at the National High School Invitational at the end of the month.
But Jones said it’s too bad more sports fans won’t see Schaible on the gridiron, because her passion for the sport is unmatched.
“If it were sanctioned in college,” Jones said, “I think she would give it all up for flag football.”
Schaible, who also is a two-year starter in volleyball, will try to lead the Panthers to their second consecutive flag football state title May 4-5 in Tallahassee. She says she tries to emulate former Gators’ star Tim Tebow and can throw a football 50 yards -- especially when her adrenaline is pumping.
In last year’s state final, she overcame a serious ankle injury to power the Panthers to a 27-26 overtime win over Alonso (Tampa, Fla.).
“Five minutes into the game, she got tangled up and twisted her ankle,” said her mother, Natalie Schaible. “If you’ve seen her play, you know that normally she hits the deck and gets back up. This time, she came out of the game.”
Not to worry, though. Schaible left the field, had her ankle taped and returned after missing just two plays. She finished the rest of the game –- on offense and defense.
After the game, her ankle swelled up and she was on crutches for three weeks. “Hannah has a very high pain threshold,” her mother said. “I call her a warrior princess.”
As good as she is at sports, Schaible is also well-rounded. She has a 4.1 grade-point average and participates in theater as an actress, singer and dancer. She is preparing for her first overseas trip -- to Italy -- as part of her interest in international studies, which will force her to skip NHSI.
But it’s her hunger to win that has defined her from the very start.
Asked where that competitiveness came from, her mother went way back. “In utero,” she said. “She arrived five-and-a-half weeks early, just ready to go.”
To illustrate the point, Natalie Schaible tells a story about Hannah and her twin brother, Matthew, when they were toddlers. Hannah wanted to get out of a play gate, and her methodology says a lot about her resourcefulness and her “stop-at-nothing” style.
“I was in the kitchen, and I heard my son crying,” Natalie said. “Hannah had used her brother as a stepping stool to get over the gate.
“It wasn’t cruel. It was just Hannah thinking, ‘Here is an opportunity -- let me take advantage.’ ”