By Rod Walker/The Clarion Ledger
MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Sixteen-year-old Kaytee Nelson grew up a coach’s daughter, so she’s been around football her whole life.
Her mom Angie recalls Kaytee sitting in the bleachers at games when she was 8-months young.
Never in Kaytee’s wildest dreams did she imagine she’d actually be out on the field playing like she was last Friday night against Philadelphia.
There she was, ponytail hanging out of her helmet and onto the back of her No. 1 jersey for Northeast Lauderdale, lining up to kick an extra point.
“I had butterflies before I went out there,” she said. “But to be honest, I drilled it.”
Nelson’s extra point came 10 years after Vicksburg’s Brandi Head kicked an extra point vs. Brookhaven in 2002. That is believed to be the first point scored by a female in a varsity high school football game in Mississippi.
Nelson is quick to point out that she isn’t kicking as some sort of publicity stunt.
“I did it to help the team I’ve grown up around,” she said. “They needed me more than just as a supporter.”
Nelson wasn’t even on the football team two weeks ago. She’s been too busy playing shortstop on her team’s slow-pitch softball team. She also plays fast-pitch softball and soccer. She tried the cheerleading thing as a seventh grader, but hated it.
When kicker Mikey Meyers, her best friend, got injured a few weeks ago against Jackson Academy, the Trojans needed help.
“We basically struggled and had to change our whole kicking philosophy,” said Trojans coach Curt Blackburn. “We started going for two after touchdowns.”
Kaytee was sitting in the stands with her father Steve, the former Northeast Lauderdale coach, at a game two weeks ago.
“He looked at me and said ‘Kaytee, I think you can do that,’” she recalled. “That Sunday we went out on the field to practice and I kinda surprised myself.”
For Nelson, kicking a ball was the easy part. She’s played soccer since she was 7.
The hard part?
“The shoulder pads still give me problems,” she said with a laugh. “And I can’t get used to that chin strap. But I’m getting the hang of it.”
And of course, there’s finding a place to get dressed. She got dressed on the bus last week.
“She’s always thought of those boys as her brothers,” said her dad, now an assistant principal. “I’m proud of her more than anything, because she’s pinch-hitting for a really good friend.”
Blackburn says they’ll only use Nelson on field goals and extra points. She won’t get to punt or kick off.
“But she’d be good at that too, but we have to protect her,” he said.
While Steve Nelson and about 25 family members proudly watched Kaytee’s PAT sail through the uprights last week, his wife was too nervous to look.
“We’ve watched her play for championships in softball and for gold in soccer, but that was the most nervous I had ever been,” Angie said. “When she made it, I cried my heart out.”
Nelson only got one chance to kick last week in the 38-7 loss.
She hopes to get more opportunities Friday night when the Trojans — and their one Lady Trojan — host Morton.
Making the night even more special. It’s homecoming.
No, Nelson isn’t on the homecoming court. “Thank the Lord I’m not,” she said. “I’ve gotta play football.”