Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Mansfield kicker Courtney Heinz fits in just fine; teammate: 'I think it's cool; better than having another guy'
MANSFIELD - Courtney Heinz can't tell you why she loves football.
"That's a hard question," she said.
She can only tell you that she plays it and has for going on five years. She is a senior and a backup kicker who has kicked a 47-yarder in practice and seen recent action for Mansfield, and her participation is really not that unusual. Annual figures from the National Federation of State High School Associations show that between 100 and 200 girls have played high school football in Texas the last three years.
"Football coaches are like any coaches," said Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme. "If they can find somebody who can help them win, they don't care if it's a guy or a girl."
Around the time this class of seniors was born, girls couldn't play football in Texas. That didn't change until 1993, half a lifetime after Stinnett High School coach Truman Johnson gave a girl named Frankie Groves the opportunity to play as an offensive lineman.
He announced the decision in a local paper just before the game, in 1947. Three thousand, maybe 5,000 fans came to watch, depending on the report. She made it in for eight plays.
"All this fans, without ever smearing her lipstick," said a sexism-drenched Associated Press report.
The aftermath was far more cruel than any verbiage. Groves was declared ineligible. Johnson was later fired. The ruling body for high school athletics, the Interscholastic League, banned girls from football the next season, the League's director saying was "a prohibition against girls playing any of these rougher sports."
The decision stood for 46 years. Forty-two states had allowed girls to play football by the time the University Interscholastic League let them.
Now, as of last year, 115 girls played football in Texas, including Heinz.
Heinz played flag football or two-hand touch once in a while when she was growing up. She watched the Cowboys. That was all. She wasn't a football diehard or the girl who spent all her time playing sports with boys. But she tried out for her eighth-grade team on a summer day four years ago.
"I was bored," she said.
That really was it. She walked up to the middle school for tryouts. She had never kicked a field goal. She hadn't received any instruction. She hadn't even told her parents or her friends.
She made her first kick. An extra point.
When Heinz's parents came home later, she casually tossed out the news that she made the football team.
"With Courtney," said her father, Sean Heinz, "she will do some stuff just on a whim."
She's stayed with the high school team for four years, through time on the bench and through a concussion suffered in practice last year. She's stayed on through time commitments with soccer and band, even playing the French horn at halftime in her pads.
This year, she's made six extra points, including her first in an important game against Duncanville.
The teammates enjoy her and are glad she's there. Heinz asked fellow kicker Andy Alkhazshzilly to confirm this.
"Do you think it's cool or do you think it's weird?" she said.
"I think it's cool," he said. "Better than having another guy."