Update: Paschal beat Dallas Molina 76 to 7 on Saturday and Reilly Fox kicked three extra points.
Reilly Fox won All-District utility player of the year last spring for her soccer prowess with the Lady Panther’s. This Saturday she is suiting up for the first time with the Paschal High School varsity football team, as their newest member and much-needed field goal kicker. That should make her a “shoe-in” for best all-round athlete this year.
R. L. Paschal will be taking on Dallas Molina at Farrington Field on Saturday, Sept. 19, beginning at 7 p.m. Assistant Director of Athletics for FWISD, Dean Pritchett says, “I will be in attendance at that game and I am looking forward to it.” Pritchett confirmed that Fox will be the first female to join the roster of a FWISD football team. “Reilly will be in uniform and playing in the game. She has been consistently hitting 43 yard field goals in practice,” he says.
(While Pritchett said she would be the first female to join the roster of a FWISD football team, according to school records she is the first since 1999 to play for Paschal.)
Paschal High School is typically known more for their academics and National Merit Scholars than for their athletics. The school’s Jazz Band recently received national notice when they got to play at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival. Since Paschal is the largest high school in FWISD, they are now a 4-6A Division school and no longer take on former rivals like Arlington Heights and Southwest. Now they square off against Texas powerhouses like Arlington Martin and Arlington Bowie instead. It is by far one of the toughest football schedules around and Paschal ended the season last year with a 2-8 record.
Athletic Coordinator and Head Football Coach at Paschal High School, Matt Miracle says, “I want to lift up all sports. This is great for Paschal, for our football team and for women’s sports as well. I am a big supporter of girl’s athletics.
Miracle, a father of four, has always preached to his own daughters, that they can do anything they want to do. He has one daughter in college at UT and two other girls currently in seventh grade at McLean Middle School. This is his first year heading up the athletic department at Paschal, and he brings with him a new attitude and an openness to trying new things.
“I thought I had my kickers in place for the season…but then two of them decided they simply couldn’t give the team a full commitment due to the demands of their select soccer teams,” Miracle said. “We were down to only one kicker, Trent Anderson.” Then, last week, Miracle was in the training room overseeing another player’s recovery, when his starting left tackle, Ethan Wiley who was seated next to his friend Reilly Fox, asked him an intriguing question – “Have you seen this girl kick Coach?”
Ethan and Reilly could see that Coach Miracle was open to the idea, so Reilly emailed him later to see if he would be willing to give her a try out. “I told Reilly that I would be at the field on Saturday if she wanted to come out and show me what she could do,” he said. “After warming up a bit, she began nailing field goals right down the center, one after another. So I moved the tee back a few times, to check her distance. Right now I am very confident that she can hit them from about 43 yards out.”
Miracle told Reilly, “You are not ‘trying out’ for me today. If this something you really want to do, I have already decided to give you the chance to do it.”
Proud dad, Eric Fox, is the Director of Governmental Relations at Lockheed Martin. He also happens to be a Paschal alum, who played baseball for the school and was one of a handful of male cheerleaders. Reilly is a third generation Paschal student, like her grandmother and father before her. Fox says, “Everyone I have spoken to, from the school administration to members of the board trustees, have been very supportive.” Reilly’s younger brother, Ryan Fox, plays on Paschal’s freshman football team. He was so supportive that he even offered to sell T-shirts to promote his sister’s success.
Reilly’s mother, Karen Vermaire Fox, is president and CEO of Quindigo Management. She says, “Reilly has wanted to do this forever. She was encouraged by many of her junior friends, who are football players. In elementary school she used to split her time between playing football on the playground with the boys on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and appeasing her friends by being a cheerleader with them on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“Karen and I discussed how this thing could go,” Eric Fox said. “The kicker is a tough position – you are either a hero or a goat, depending on the placement of every kick. We are trying to get her mentally prepared for the ups and downs of the game. We also know that change can be difficult for some people and are very hopeful that Reilly’s new position will be embraced by fans as well as by the whole community.”
Assistant Girls’ Soccer Coach, Brittany Rose, has seen Reilly progress over the past couple of years. “I used to go watch her play when she was in middle school. She is a lefty and I knew she was going to be good. Reilly made the varsity soccer team her freshman year, which does not happen often.” Rose says, “Her strike is so powerful and precise. Why wouldn’t the football team want her?” Rose mentioned many other characteristics that set Reilly apart like: commitment, team dedication, and her competitive edge.
“Reilly has a very strong leg…it’s just raw right now, and the dynamics of football kicking is all brand-new to her,” Miracle says. “Her team-mate, Trent Anderson, has been coaching the heck out of her and giving her a crash-course in kicking. Reilly has made huge strides in just one week on the team.” The entire Paschal varsity football team is excited to have her and they have welcomed her with open arms.
“My parents and my friends have all encouraged me. I told coach that I would like to help the football team if I could by making field goals, but that I understood if he was too hesitant because I am a girl. He did not care at all that I was a girl,” Reilly says. “I remember my dad mentioning it to me when I was younger, but I just thought…girls don’t play football.”
It has only crossed her mind, in passing, that this is a pretty big deal – the first female varsity football player in FWISD history. “I have always been kind of a tom-boy,” Reilly says, “comfortable playing with the guys, but I still like be a girly-girl and do my nails and my hair.” Reilly is just excited to play the game and appreciates everyone’s support so far.
“At the beginning of the season, I told my players that no one is entitled to any position on this team,” Miracle says. “They are going to have to earn it. Not to take anything away from Trent, because he is an amazing kid who has done absolutely everything that I have asked of him…but when it comes to game day, it is going to come down to whoever is kicking better in practice. Every position on the team is an open competition.”
This story was updated to determine what other female players may have been on football teams over the years in the FWISD.