By: Jenny B. Davis
By: Shilo Urban
| photography by Alex Lepe |
R.L. Paschal High School senior Reilly Fox kicks like a girl. The boys on the Paschal Panthers football team could not be happier about that.
Last Sept. 19, Reilly adjusted her perfectly braided hair and suited up in her No. 89 jersey for the first time with the school’s varsity football team. Their newest field goal kicker, she became the first girl to kick in the Fort Worth Independent School District in 15 years. That night, Paschal beat Dallas Molina 76 to 7, and Reilly kicked three extra points.
She was hooked.
“The boys treat me like one of them,” Reilly says. “On the first day of practice, they were all looking at me trying to figure out why I was there and see if I was good.”
By the end of practice, Reilly had beaten the other kicker in a field goal challenge.
“The boys went crazy and were cheering, and all rushed me at once,” she said. “I felt accepted then, and they did not see me as a girl. They saw me as an athlete.”
In practice, Reilly consistently kicks about 43 yards out. She plays indoor soccer, select soccer, and Lady Panthers high school soccer, where she won All-District utility player of the year last spring.
Reilly’s mother, Karen Vermaire Fox, is president and CEO of Quindigo Management. “I got blessed with a daughter who wants to play football,” she said. “Luckily, she gets the opportunity to play. And if she inspires other young women to try new things, then that is an added bonus.”
Reilly is a third generation Paschal student.
Reilly’s dad, Eric Fox, is the Director of Governmental Relations at Lockheed Martin. He played baseball and was a cheerleader at Paschal. Reilly’s grandmother graduated from Paschal. “In my job, I attend events all over the city and the state,” Eric Fox said. “Nothing makes me prouder than the past 16 months. I have had a name change to ‘Reilly’s dad’ or ‘you are the kicker’s dad.’ Makes my heart swell every time.”
Dad inspired her to play football. He wanted her to play freshman year, but Reilly thought she would be judged, and the kids would make fun of her. “The coach didn’t want a girl on the team, either, so I decided not to play,” she said. “This past year, we got a new coach. He didn’t care that I was a girl. But, if it wasn’t for my dad, I don’t think I would have gotten the guts to try out for the team.”
Reilly says she acts like her dad. “He calls me ‘the princess’ because I have a short fuse,” she said laughing. “Mom calls Dad and says, ‘She’s being you again.’”
Reilly is blessed with a supportive family. Brother Ryan is a sophomore at Paschal where he plays football. Reilly’s sister, Taylor, is a junior in college.
“My family goes to all of my games, and they always cheer me on,” Reilly says. “My mom braids my hair before the games because I am terrible at it. My dad stands up every time I kick to see if someone is going to tackle me. My brother is cheering me on with all of his friends beside him.”
Reilly’s role models include soccer legends, Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm. “They are great leaders and athletes,” Reilly said. “I love how they carry their team and inspire girls to reach their dreams.”
Reilly dreams of attending Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where she would play college soccer and major in business. Hendrix is a Division III school.
Even with a demanding addition of 20-plus practice hours weekly, Reilly has maintained As and high Bs in academics. “I get sleepy a lot, but I can manage everything and still do what I need to do,” she says.
Reilly has worked hard all summer getting fit to take the field in her senior year.
She appears as an honored guest with six other young people and many celebrities on the television show "WE Day" on August 28. The show was filmed in Los Angeles this spring. It airs commercial-free on ABC at 6 p.m. "WE Day" is a part of a movement that is connecting people to “live WE by taking action on issues and creating systemic change in communities around the world.”
Craig Kielburger, co-founder of "WE Day," describes Reilly as a trailblazer who proves that with passion, dedication and heart, you can achieve any goal that you set for yourself. “We are honored that Reilly is part of the 'WE Day' broadcast,” he said. “We can’t wait for families everywhere to be inspired by her courage and determination.”
Reilly said she was chosen because she breaks gender inequality by playing on a boy’s football team. Her message: “No one should tell you not to do something because you are a girl playing a boy’s sport or a boy playing a girl’s sport. Follow your dreams.”
By: Jenny B. Davis
By: Shilo Urban