By Tara Cavanaugh
At any given Skyline football game, you might notice that number 16 is an impressive kicker, sailing field goals through the posts in a powerful arc again and again.
From the stands you won’t notice, underneath the wide shoulder pads and helmet, number 16’s mascara and long hair.
Victoria Norris is a senior and star athlete at Skyline. She’s also the football team’s kicker, and she’s proving that girls can play football too.
Victoria first caught the attention of the varsity football coaches last year at the Homecoming powderpuff football game. Powderpuff teams don’t usually do field goals, but the girls decided to add them in to make the game more interesting.
“We knew (Victoria) played soccer and basketball and was an athlete,” said head coach Lee Arthur. “But when we saw her kick a 45-yard field goal, right there everybody knew that she had the possibility to help us on our kicking game.”
Then-head coach Rod Jones approached Victoria after the game and asked if she would kick for the varsity football team in 2012, replacing their kicker who would graduate.
Victoria brushed it off, and so did her mother Tina Norris, who volunteers in the school’s athletic office.
“I just sort of said, ‘Yeah right. There’s no way they’re going to have a girl out there,’” said Mrs. Norris. But even after Coach Jones left, talk of Victoria playing football persisted. “The new coach (Arthur) just assumed she was going to kick for them!”
Luckily for Arthur, Victoria eventually took the offer seriously and dove right in. So far she’s made all of her field goals, earning 9 extra points for the Skyline football team between the first three games of the season.
‘A tough young lady’
The first thing to learn about Victoria is that she’s tough. She’s a defensive player in basketball, and she’s the goalie for Skyline soccer and a club team that’s playing this fall. At home she’s the big sister to three brothers, two who play sports and race Motocross.
She’s not afraid to get beaten up or get her hands dirty –– which she proved during Skyline’s first game against Hartland on Aug. 24.
Skyline had just scored, and Victoria was on kickoff. Hartland’s running back got through the defense, and Victoria found herself the last resort.
“So he’s starting to run towards the sideline, and I’m trying to cut him off,” Victoria remembers. “I dive to go tackle him, and in mid-air I get hit. I was going for his legs but I got his ankle.”
She tripped the linebacker up enough to let her team members push him out of bounds. “So I feel like I can take half credit for the tackle!” she said triumphantly.
In the process, the linebacker stepped on her forearm, leaving it black and bruised for more than a week. But no matter: “It’s just another bruise,” Victoria said.
“When she was called to duty she stepped up,” Coach Arthur said proudly. “She went after the tackle and didn’t think twice.”
If she wasn’t a kicker, Arthur adds, she could be a linebacker or a quarterback. “She’s a tough young lady,” he said.
A true team spirit
Mrs. Norris says she’s her daughter’s biggest fan, and biggest critic.
“I look at her sometimes and I think, Geez, you’re so feisty, how do you have any friends?” she jokes.
But then Mrs. Norris admits: “In all her talk and her action, Victoria is a tough cookie, but there is a heart in there too.”
Before Victoria agreed to play football, she checked in with the guys in her life. She talked with her young brother Robert, a sophomore who plays JV football at Skyline, worried he’d feel like he was in her shadow.
She talked with her male friends who play varsity football. “I know this is guy time,” she said to them. “You guys can be bros and have your little bromances. I don’t want to intrude on that.”
She was relieved at the welcome they gave her, and their reason: Anything to help the team.
Their answer underscores one of the most important lessons the sport has taught her.
“In football, you have to rely on your teammates. You can’t be a one-man show,” Victoria said. “That goes with my position too. If my line doesn’t block for me, then they’re going to get through or the field goal will get blocked.”
From her very first team workout in the spring, “she wanted to be treated as a member of the team,” Coach Arthur said. He’s watched her form friendships and a place for herself. “She has respect for the game, and the players have respect for her.”
The coach certainly has respect for her, too. In fact, he wishes she could play another year as a linebacker.
From one adventure to the next
As a senior and a star athlete, inevitably the question comes up: Will you continue to play sports in college?
Victoria’s not sure yet. She hopes to play soccer on a college team, or failing that, on a club team. But she is certain that she wants to go to a D1 school for her interest in sports medicine.
When she graduates, she’ll leave behind a sterling reputation. “She’s one of the best student athletes to come through Skyline so far,” said Coach Arthur. “We’re very proud of her.”
For now, Victoria is having fun with her new sport. “It’s a whole new experience for me,” she said.
Turns out, girls can play football after all. “If you want to do it,” Victoria said, “why not at least try?”
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