Big hit makes Pa. female kicker an Internet sensation

The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
  • Kicker Kelly Macnamara has become an Internet sensation for her hit.
  • The blow came on a kickoff return in a Pennsylvania high school game.
  • The hit has been viewed more than 900,000 times.

Ray Macnamara watched as his daughter, Kelly, the first female football player for North Penn High School, launched the kickoff downfield Saturday against host Central Bucks East.

"Really, after you see the ball come down you kind of forget she's there because usually it doesn't get [returned] that far," he said.

Kelly Macnamara came into focus soon enough, tracking the kick returner along the C.B. East sideline.

Kelly Macnamara

"My first thought was actually, 'Don't miss him,' " Ray said.

She didn't. And what followed has taken social media by storm.

"It's absolutely overwhelming," said Kelly, a junior multisport athlete at North Penn in southeastern Pennsylvania. "I honestly didn't expect any of this would happen."

On the play, the C.B. East player takes the ball at his own 18-yard line and races down the left sideline with a wall of blockers in front. But, at about the North Penn 48-yard line, the returner outruns his teammates, and Macnamara slides untouched in front of the blockers and uses a crunching hit with her shoulder to knock the ballcarrier down and out of bounds.

"I didn't really think it was that much of a big deal," said Macnamara.

The play was recorded by someone in the stands and quickly went viral on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check it out.

By Tuesday evening, 906,000 views were tallied on Instagram via House of Highlights, which is affiliated with the Bleacher Report Network.

Big media outlets come calling: Calls from ESPN, CNN, and People Magazine also poured into the family's Montgomeryville home.

Days later, Kelly remained incredulous.

"Honestly, it's not that I'm not a fan of attention, but I really didn't think it was that big of a deal until everyone else did," she said. "So it was really overwhelming, and I didn't know what to think."

Macnamara was a freshman soccer player when her thoughts turned to football. The freshman team needed a kicker, and she had always been around the game. Her father played at Upper Dublin and was an offensive lineman at Lock Haven from 1985 to 1987. Her younger brother, Ray Jr., or R.J., is a freshman for the Knights.

"I knew I could do it because I had a soccer background, and I knew I had the leg strength for it," Macnamara said. "I just decided I would try."

Once her teammates knew she was committed and could contribute, Macnamara said, they embraced her immediately. She started five varsity games last year as a sophomore.

"If there had been another coaching staff or another group of teammates, the situation and the experience could have been totally different," she said. "I'm really glad that I have the teammates and coaches that I do because they're all great people and fun to be around."

An effective kicker: On Saturday, she hit field goals from 33 and 42 yards as the unbeaten Knights won, 33-14. Her longest kick in practice was about 52 yards, she said. Macnamara also plays attacker on the girls' lacrosse team and throws shot put and discus on the track and field team.

As for the hit that caused all the commotion, it wasn't exactly seek and destroy.

"I just remember looking at him, kind of thinking, 'Oh, my God . . . I don't know what I'm doing,' " she said. "Then I just tried to knock him out" of bounds.

Father and daughter previously had conversations about just pushing runners out of bounds near the sideline instead of going for the hit.

"That's kind of what we were expecting, and all of a sudden she kind of laid him out," Ray said. "The entire North Penn side of the field just went crazy. It was a really cool moment."

The Knights (7-0, 4-0 Suburban One Continental) are a talented team averaging 36 points per game, which means Macnamara gets ample opportunity on the field.

Safety concerns: Ray said he didn't have reservations about his daughter's safety until this past weekend and hopes that opposing players won't now seek her out on kick returns as a result.

Penn State kicker Joey Julius has been targeted by opponents after video spread of his making vicious tackles during kick returns.

"Forget the part that I'm a girl. Kickers do that a lot," Macnamara said about tackling. "I feel like if I wasn't a girl it wouldn't have been that big of a deal."

When asked if the hard hits by Julius inspired her play, she laughed.

"No, not so much," she said. "I'd like our guys to keep doing what they're doing, tackling them before they get to me."