LONG BEACH, Calif. — The blonde ponytail coming out of the football helmet is telling: If kicking like a girl is a bad thing, it’s news to Killian Turley.
Turley is Long Beach Poly’s first-ever female football player. And no, not futbol – but yes, she plays that too. This season, Turley became the first female to convert an extra point in the storied history of one of the most renowned prep football programs in the country.
And even though it was something two years in the making, her dad, Jackrabbits’ defensive coordinator Jeff Turley Sr., couldn’t quite believe it either: His daughter had broken a barrier.
“I never would have thought,” Jeff said.
Jeff Sr., had watched his daughter compete with her older brother, Jeff Jr., her entire life. A two-sport athlete that excelled in baseball, football and academics, Killian did everything her brother did, playing softball, soccer and also earning top grades in the classroom.
However, Killian is finally doing just a little more than Jeff as she is set to earn a third varsity letter. Jeff, now an outfielder at UCLA, earned only two.
“I’m definitely going to hold that over his head,” Killian said. “I’m going to get bragging rights if I get the third one.”
Killian started kicking a few years ago simply because she was bored while waiting for her dad to finish football practice. But that’s not where Killian’s football story started.
Jeff Sr., has been a coach at Poly since 2001, when Killian was only three and Jeff was just six. Killian, Jeff and their younger brother, Samuel, spent most of their childhoods at the Poly High football field.
“There is a picture of me out coaching with her in one of the backpacks,” Jeff Sr. said. “She’s been around her whole life.”
And Killian wanted to be around. Once she entered high school, she was at the field even more frequently and joined her brother and the kickers while waiting for her dad.
“He’s my ride home so I had to stay out here for practice,” Killian said. “My freshman year, my brother was on the team so he was out here with the kickers and I would kick with them. The special teams coach would always joke around and say, ‘Are you going to come (for the team) and kick with us?’
“And eventually I did.”
Killian was out-kicking the boys.
Special teams coordinator Luis Hayes saw the booming swing and couldn’t pass it up.
“I never thought that I would actually see her suited up for a game,” Jeff Turley Sr. said. “I always thought she just liked competing with the boys and would be out there waiting for me after practice. And then coach Luis came up to me and said, ‘Hey, do you mind if we put her in gear and see if she can do that in gear?'”
A few years ago, Poly suffered a postseason loss when a kick was missed and Killian was angry, thinking she could have made the kick. Last year, Killian kicked on the junior varsity team and was not pulled up to varsity for the CIF State Championship Bowl. An extra point was missed and head coach Raul Lara couldn’t bear to look at his backup kicker.
He knew what look was coming.
“I was pretty upset. Especially when it ended the way it did,” Killian said. “I wanted to prove that I could have done that.”
Although Killian proved herself in the 2013 in the season opener, she has still taken her knocks. She still isn’t quite used to having to keep her helmet on when she runs and worked through an ankle injury during summer practices.
Last week, Killian missed a kick and had a hard time shaking it off — she’s still learning the mental part of football, too.
Although Killian said she felt some pressure being a female playing football, she knows she isn’t the only one feeling it — as another girl came out for the team this year, as well.
“I get really excited when people tell me I inspired them to try something new,” Killian said.
Ultimately, Killian wants to set an example: Anything the boys can do, she can do, too.