Reilly Fox never dreamed she would be singled out just for playing football.
Yes, the Paschal High School senior, who joined the team last year as a place-kicker, knew that girls are few and far between in this sport.
“But in my head, this is normal for me,” Fox says. “I’ve always been a tomboy.”
Fox owns the distinction of being the first girl to play football in Fort Worth on the 6A varsity level. She scored 18 points last year for the 3-7 Panthers.
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“Honestly, I really didn’t think I was going to get so much attention just from being a girl on the team,” she says.
But much to her surprise, there was media coverage from near and far. After her story broke locally (in the Star-Telegram’s Sports section), Fox even rated coverage from the Daily Mail in England. The hashtag #kicklikeagirl trended on social media.
The lefty kicker ultimately was invited to participate in WE Day California in April, where she was hailed in an arena full of young people as an inspiration.
Next she’ll be profiled in ABC’s WE Day special — a one-hour, commercial-free program that airs at 6 p.m. Sunday.
WE Day is an annual “youth empowerment” event organized by WE Charity. It’s a celebration of young people who make a difference in local and global communities.
Fox is a lifelong soccer player whose kicking accuracy won her a spot on the team and trailblazer status.
“I was at lunch with some of the football guys one day,” Fox recalls. “I asked one of my friends, Ethan Wiley [a lineman], how football was going. And he told me about the team’s kicking situation.
“He said, ‘Our kicker is really good at punts and kickoffs. But with field goals and extra points, he’s not very consistent.’ And then he said, ‘Reilly, you should come and try out.’ ”
Fox had briefly considered doing exactly that as a freshman, but she chose not to at that time.
I emailed the coach. I was too scared to go talk to him at first. He emailed me back and said, ‘Tomorrow morning, come try out.’ The next day, I made every single kick Coach told me to.
“We had a different coach then and he said he didn’t want a girl to be on the football team,” she says. “But Ethan told me that the new coach [Matt Miracle] didn’t care that I’m a girl.
“So I emailed the coach. I was too scared to go talk to him at first. He emailed me back and said, ‘Tomorrow morning, come try out.’ The next day, I made every single kick Coach told me to.
“He said, ‘You know how to kick and we would love to have you.’ I got suited that day.”
In the year since, Fox has learned about and even met other girls who play football.
“Some are playing positions like defensive end, which means they’re hitting and tackling people,” she says. “I was like, ‘OK, well, that makes them way more impressive than anything I do.’ ”
One of Fox’s teammates handled the punting and kickoff duties last year, while she focused on field goals and extra points, so there was little chance of her being blocked or having to make a tackle.
This season, I might be doing some kickoffs or there might be someone else doing it. It depends on what happens whether I might have to try to tackle someone.
“This season, I might be doing some kickoffs or there might be someone else doing it,” Fox says. “It depends on what happens whether I might have to try to tackle someone.”
Fox wore jersey No. 89 last year, but for her senior season she switched to No. 7, her longtime soccer number.
She still plays soccer and dreams of playing at the college level, like her older sister Taylor, who’s at West Virginia Wesleyan.
“It’s not official yet, but I really like Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.,” Fox says. “It’s a Division III school. I love the vibe there and I love all the girls and the coaches there.”
Participating in the WE Day event in Inglewood, Calif., was a day Fox will never forget.
“Demi Lovato was introducing me onstage and telling my story,” she says. “Then Von Miller [the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl MVP] popped up and invited me to come to the Broncos’ training facility, where I could get a tour.”
She and her family went this month.
“It was so awesome to be there,” Fox says. “Just seeing how big all those football players were and how intense the practices were. I’ve never seen anything like that. And meeting Von, he was such a nice guy and so supportive and so into everything that I had to say.
“He even showed me a video where he was trying to kick a field goal. I think it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Kicking is not the thing that he’s best at.”
A WE Day film crew also came to Fort Worth to shoot a special vignette about Fox for the TV show.
“They came to my practices, to see what that was like, and to meet my teammates and my coaches, and basically just get more of a background story so kids watching will know more about me,” she says. “It’s basically a day in the life of Reilly.
“It was so cool, one of the best weekends I’ve had. I can’t wait for everybody to see it.”
- 6 p.m. Sunday
- WFAA/Channel 8