Parker Molloy
September 09, 2014 10:03 am

Later this month, Mary Kate Smith will be crowned homecoming queen at a ceremony held immediately before South Jones High School takes the field in their annual homecoming game. Immediately after the ceremony, Smith will rush to the locker room, where she’ll swap out her tiara for a helmet and her dress for a jersey before returning to the field in time to play in the game. Not just the homecoming queen, Jones is also the starting kicker for the St. Ellisville, Miss., school’s varsity football team.

Jones was the star of the school’s soccer team (and she’s made plans to play at the University of Mississippi after she graduates in the spring). She became involved with football when her soccer coach was put in charge of recruiting a kicker. She had been approached about going out for the school’s football team for the past couple of years, and finally, in her senior year, she decided to give it a shot.

“She was nailing 35-40 yard kicks, getting great height. When you hear that ‘thump,’ you know it’s a good kick,” head football coach Corey Reynolds told The Clarion-Ledger. “You know the ones that can and the ones that can’t, and she definitely can.”

During high school, Smith’s father played quarterback at South Jones, wearing the number 15. As a way to pay homage to her father, Smith has chosen to also wear 15.

While the vast majority of football players are boys, an increasing number of girls are getting in on the gridiron action. With the current controversy over the NFL’s actions on crimes against women, it’s heartening to see a new generation of young women getting into the game and hopefully, impacting the future of the sport for the better.

Earlier this summer, Lafayette, Ind., senior Shelby Osborne signed a letter of intent to play college football at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. The 5-foot-tall defensive back will become the first female college athlete to play college ball at a position other than kicker. While there, Osborne plans on majoring in sports medicine.

In 2012, nine-year-old Samantha Gordon made national news when a highlight reel put together by her father began making the rounds online. A quarterback in her youth football league, Gordon accumulated 1,911 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns in her first year of playing. On the defensive side of the ball, Gordon had 65 tackles.

Forty-five percent of the NFL’s fan-base is made up of women, so it should come as no surprise that girls are getting in on the game. Will a woman ever make it to the pros? Who knows? Either way, it’s fantastic to see kids of all ages and genders able to have fun playing a team sport.

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