Kylin Grubb walked to the north end of the Odessa football field Thursday, the blonde locks of her ponytail sticking out of her helmet, and dug a kicking tee into the tall grass. She piled three footballs next to the orange tee, set one on top of it and lined up her kicks.
Wide right. Make. Make. Wide right.
“It’s still a work in progress,” she said with a smile. “But we’re getting there.”
Grubb has been kicking footballs for only three months. Her true calling is on the soccer field, and she committed last spring to play at Creighton in the Big East Conference.
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A bevy of college coaches recruited her for soccer. One high school coach recruited her for football.
Odessa football coach Mark Thomas, Grubb’s weightlifting instructor at the high school, realized during the summer that his kicking game would need help. So he reached out to Joe Grubb, Kylin’s father and an assistant on Thomas’ coaching staff last season.
“Kylin came to some of our practices last year because Joe was on our staff, and I’d watch her kick a soccer ball over on the sideline to kill time,” Thomas said. “That girl can kick.”
After a few one-on-one practice sessions over the summer, Kylin, a junior, earned her spot on the team — and she earned some immediate respect from her teammates. She made all three extra points in a 21-20 win against St. Pius X in the season opener.
She was an especially welcome addition for Josiah Bennett, who handled the kicking duties last season.
“I don’t really like kicking, so I thought it was kind of cool she came out,” Bennett said. “She’s just another football player to us. We’re all brothers, and now we have a sister. We’re just one big family out here.”
Bennett still handles the kickoffs this season. Thomas allowed Grubb to kick off in the season opener but prevented her from being involved in any potential tackles. He’s removed that possibility now.
Grubb has made 15 of 18 extra points this season. She missed her only field goal attempt.
“She’s a very accurate kicker, but we’re trying to make her as confident in her abilities as other kickers are in their abilities,” Thomas said. “She doesn’t want to disappoint anybody or let anybody down.”
More than 1,800 females played high school football last season, according to data collected annually by the National Federation of State High School Associations. That represents a nearly 50 percent increase from only six years earlier.
But few of them have schedules that resemble Grubb’s.
After Monday and Wednesday practices, Grubb immediately makes an hourlong drive to Overland Park to join Kansas City United, a traveling soccer team. Odessa does not have a high school girls soccer program.
Grubb competes in soccer tournaments nearly every weekend, she said, many of them requiring out-of-state trips.
“There have been times where I’ve kicked on Friday night, then I get in a car and drive to Iowa and get up and play soccer at 10 the next morning,” Grubb said. “It gets kind of crazy.”
But Grubb is enjoying the ride. So much that there may be another one like her on the way.
Grubb said her youngest sister, Kloee, has taken an interest in her kicking.
“And she’s got quite the boot,” Grubb said.
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.