Prep Football Team Pins Its Hopes on New Kicker--and She Hopes to Succeed

Associated Press

Records are made to be broken, but when there isn't a record there in the first place, it's up to pioneers such as Chattanooga Notre Dame kicker Heather Darrow to take charge.

Heather, a former hockey player and a current member of the school's soccer team, hopes to become the first female athlete to light up the scoreboard in a Tennessee prep football game this season.

Heather already has impressed her teammates, kicking one field goal in tennis shoes from 40 yards away. In full gear for the first time last week, Heather booted eight in a row from 35 yards out, said Irish Coach Mike Zimmerman.

Now, she has to convince the rest of Tennessee's prep football world she is a quality kicker.

"I've been playing soccer since the first grade, but kicking footballs is a little bit different," Heather said. "I've never been up against a line, so I'm a little nervous about that, but I just want to help the team if I can. I'm not out here because I'm a girl, I'm out here because that's want I want to do: Help the team."

Zimmerman lost 18 starters from last year's squad, including his placekicker.

"The first week (of practice) we were trying to figure out who was going to do it, but none of the guys excelled at it," Zimmerman said. "Someone mentioned Heather so I said something to her about coming out and kicking one day before practice.

"She's the best kicker we've got. She has tremendous potential and I have all the confidence in the world in her or she wouldn't be out there. Heck, she kicks it better than I can," Zimmerman said.

Heather has found that some people aren't as quick to accept her as a member of the Irish team.

At a jamboree last week, the gate keeper refused to believe Heather was a member of the Irish squad and was still a bit leery after Zimmerman vouched for his kicker.

Both Heather, who played on a boys' hockey team in her native St. Louis, and her coach hope the doubts will all be erased.

Heather says her dad, who taught her how to step off the distance before kicking the ball, is excited about her playing, but her mother is hesitant.

"She's afraid her baby is going to get hurt, but she's lived with it since the first grade so she'll just have to keep on living with it," Heather said.

Acceptance by her teammates has made the move into the male arena easier, Heather said.

"I feel a little out of place, and putting all those pads on isn't that easy, but I think everything will be all right. Gosh, I've been in a hockey locker room before so it can't be much worse than that," Heather said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World