Getting a kick out of football

Wirt County’s Shelby Simonton to handle place-kicking duties

ELIZABETH — Shelby Simonton never really thought about playing football.

That’s all in the past for the now Wirt County High School junior place-kicker.

“Oh, no. Heaven’s, no,” replied Simonton when asked if she ever thought she’d don pads and compete on the gridiron. “That was the least expected sport I want to play.”

Times have changed for Simonton since she decided to give it a go. As it currently stands, head coach Jason Hickman will call her number for extra points and field goals.

“I don’t think he wants me out there in case I get tackled, but I’m sure I can hold my own,” she said of likely not kicking off, at least early in the season. “I have a big brother. I pretty much tackle him everyday.”

When asked about the relationship to her teammates and being a female student-athlete playing football she admitted, “I walked into everyone telling me, ‘oh, my gosh. They are going to despise you,’ but none of them said anything to me and they’ve been nothing but supportive of me.

“Whenever I’m going to be last and stuff, so I can finish my drills, when I’m last they run with me along the way so I can finish. They’ve been supportive of me. It’s like having 27 big brothers.”

She’s also got plenty of family support.

“My grandpa built me my own goalpost and I love it,” Simonton continued. “I can see it from my bedroom window. I think it really started off a joke, but whenever the meeting came up I was kind of freaking out a little bit.

“Then one of the boys actually drove me to the meeting. I really appreciate him for doing that.”

Using a one-step approach to boot the pigskin has worked out well thus far.

Simonton said she’s mainly practiced from the 10-yard line and feels more than comfortable kicking and converting extra points.

“I can actually go back. I can probably start working my way back,” said Simonton, who is trying to make sure she doesn’t overuse her leg during practice.

“It’s more mental. I know I can make it. I’m kicking it on top of the (school) roof out there, but it’s just more mental and I have to get over that.”

Fellow junior teammate Logan Powell admitted, “she’s doing really well. She was in the weight room all summer, at practice everyday and she’s doing her job.”

Simonton has competed for the Tiger basketball team and went out for track in the spring for the first time.

Confronted with the question of confidence when doing her job as long as the snap and hold are good she didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, I do,” Simonton confirmed. “I have to be confident because if they are going to let me be on the team then I have to show up.”

That’s something she plans to continue doing, even if she can’t sometimes believe herself she’s playing football for the orange and black.

“It actually started as a little bit of a funny story,” she added. “I was going to basketball practice one day and one of the boys on the team was practicing their kicking and I was like ‘hey, I want to try’ and he let me.

“Whenever I went to go kick it, it ended up going to the other side of the gym, up in the rafters and everyone was surprised, including myself. I guess you could say the rest is history.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com