Soccer player gets a kick out of football
History will be made Thursday when the Governor Simcoe Redcoats football team travels to Thorold to take on the Golden Eagles in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 2 football action.
For the first time in school history, Simcoe’s kicker will be sporting aqua blue acrylic nails as the ball leaves the snapper and is set up for the extra point attempt. After missing the first game of the season because her mother was receiving a Governor General’s Award, Maddie Roberts will see her first action in a Redcoats uniform.
“I am super excited about the game,” the 17-year-old said, admitting her teammates have been giving her a lot of grief about her nails. “It’s going to be a great first game and we’re going for the win.
“I am really excited to play with the guys, maybe kick a couple of field goals and see what happens.”
Roberts, a competitive soccer player, first became interested in place kicking when Simcoe alumnus Lirim Hajrullahu, a kicker in the CFL, spoke to football coach Jamie Brophy’s Super Fit class when Roberts was in Grade 11
“He was talking about being a kicker for a pro team and how he used to play at Simcoe and that he had also played soccer before,” she said. “I always hear about professional football players who had played soccer before and I wondered if I could give it a shot.”
She approached Brophy with the idea and he was all for it.
“She’s a great athlete and she plays rep soccer,” he said. “The thing about football is that there is a role for everybody out here and if we encourage everybody to come out and get involved, some people will surprise you.”
Brophy loves Roberts’ passion for football and the fact that she never misses a practice.
“She’s excited and it’s contagious for everyone when there is someone who really wants to be out here and have some fun.”
Roberts’ passion for football is obvious when she talks about the sport.
“I had never really seen a girl kicker out here and I love football,” the Grade 12 student said. “I played it when I was younger in house league, a lot of my friends play football and I know a lot of the guys out here.”
She has been welcomed with open arms by her teammates.
“They have been awesome about it,” she said. “They’re so funny and they joke around all the time, but the bottom line is they accept me and they are great about it.”
Danny Lewis kicked for the Redcoats in their game last week and he will be still kicking field goals Thursday, but Roberts will attempt all the extra points.
Kicking converts at the high school level is not always a certainty.
“It’s a lot of pressure at any level and, once you step on the field, there’s going to be pressure,” Brophy said. “It could come down to just that one point and you have to trust the players you have.”
Roberts’ goal is to attempt some field goals this season.
“He (Brophy) believes in me and I am going to take it as far as I can go.”
The one thing she needs to prepare for is the possibility of having to make a tackle if she misses a field goal. She is up to the challenge.
“I can never go into a situation doubting myself so I always have to be in the top end of things,” she said. “If I go in there looking scared to get tackled, I am going to get tackled and I’m not going to be ready for it.”
Brophy is confident that she will be able to make tackles when required,
“It’s knowing where she is supposed to be and being prepared for the tackling and hard-hitting aspect because it is a varsity league,” he said. “I don’t doubt that she will stick her nose into it as well and get involved.”
At 5-foot-2 and 140 pounds, Roberts won’t intimidate anyone with her size, but she is not scared of physical contact. As anyone who has watched girls soccer can attest, it can be every bit as violent as football.
“For sure,” Roberts said, with a laugh. “You are coming off with bruises and bloody noses, but at the end of it, I always have a great time.”
Roberts plays showcase soccer with Elite Soccer Development, which practises in Canada and plays in the States.
She has already received a couple of scholarship offers, but has yet to make up her mind where she will pursue her post-secondary soccer career. She will be content to play in Canada or the United States.
“It doesn’t matter where I play,” she said. “It’s where I fit in the best and where I am going to be the happiest is where I will end up playing.”
Training for football is already helping her on the soccer field.
“I play centre back so I am kicking some free kicks and it really helps with kicking the long balls and getting some extra muscle in my legs.”