Kendyl Terrell swore she wasn’t nervous, at all, when about four minutes into the first football game of her high school career, she pulled on her helmet to trot out on to the field and into the Hattiesburg High School history books.
“Nope, not nervous at all,” Terrell said.
Naw. What’s to be nervous about?
Believed to be the first female to don the pads at Hattiesburg High, Terrell made her debut in a season-opening rivalry game on the road before a large, loud crowd.
No problem, right?
As it turned out, no, it wasn’t a problem at all.
The sophomore drilled five consecutive extra points as the Tigers held off Petal High School 43-37 Saturday night at Panther Stadium.
“What was she? Five of five? And never nervous,” Hattiesburg High coach Tony Vance said. “Had a little jitters before the game. I told her, ‘All right, settle down. You’ll be fine.’
“But, man, first time in front of a big crowd? Nailed it. Straight down the barrel.”
Indeed. Terrell is no gimmick, but a weapon, a real-deal athlete who got the job on her ability to put the ball through the uprights.
“Oh no, I knew she’d make them,” Tigers quarterback Jarod Conner said. “She makes ‘em at practice all the time, 50 (yards), 40 yards, with our D-line rushing her.”
Vance said he had hoped that Terrell would provide consistency at a task that is considered near-automatic at the professional and collegiate level but is often an adventure in the high school ranks.
“It makes a big difference for us being able to make extra points every time we kick it,” Vance said. “That’s huge for us, knowing you don’t need to go for two (-point conversions).”
Terrell was “discovered” this past spring when Vance’s staff was running drills at the same the girls’ soccer team was practicing.
“They said, ‘Coach, you should see that girl kick,’” Vance said. “So, then when we started spring ball, she was out at the track, and I said, ‘Kendyl, come over here and let me see you kick that ball. Let me see what you can do.’ And she drilled it, and I’m thinking, ‘Well, is that beginner’s luck?’, but she kicked several more, and I started backing her up, and she’s still making them, and I’m like, ’Wow. The way the ball comes off her foot, she’s got a chance to make them all.’”
Her teammates appear appreciative for what she brings to the Tigers.
“It’s something that we haven’t had,” HHS safety Tadrian Leflore said. “I think she’s the first girl in history to kick a field goal (or extra point) for our team.”
Females on the football field may be rare, but certainly not unheard of. Just last season, Laurel High School senior Kendall Breland was believed to have been the first female to a score a touchdown in a high school football game in Mississippi.
Vance said her teammates have welcomed Terrell.
“They make her feel like a big part of what we do,” Vance said. “They make her feel like one of the guys.”
Terrell certainly is not a guy, but she is an athlete.
In addition to soccer and track, Terrell also plays volleyball and power lifts. She said she really, really liked the idea of adding a fifth sport to her resume.
“Because everybody thought I couldn’t do it, you know?” she said. “I always wanted to do something that a boy could do, and I proved to them all that I could do it better.
“So, I just went out there and kicked it, and now, I’m the starting varsity kicker.”
And, on top of it all, she’s having a ball.
“It’s been really fun,” she said. “It’s exciting and I’m glad they support me like I’m one of the team.”