Jenni Goethe didn't set out to be a hero when she decided to try out for a spot on the Tecumseh (Okla.) High football team. No matter. It took precisely one game for the precocious 15-year-old to emerge as a veritable local legend.
With a powerfully clean 22-yard boot in overtime, Goethe gave her Tecumseh team a 16-13 season opening victory against Noble (Okla.) High, one of her school's biggest rivals. Goethe was carried off the field, and shortly afterward was feted by everyone from teammates to the local media en masse.
There was good reason for that sudden enthusiasm. Just three days before the season opener, Tecumseh didn't have a kicker. According to the Tulsa World, Goethe, a soccer standout, was asked by the school's football coach, Greg George, if she had ever considered trying to kick a football. That night, Goethe went out to the field with friends on the football team and began drilling kicks with the consistency of Adam Viniatieri.
The next morning Goethe tried out for George and the coaching staff and eventually nailed kicks from as far back as 35 and 40 yards. They immediately fitted her out for a helmet and shoulder pads and had her kick for a live pass rush at the team's walk through practice the next day.
In a sign of good things to come, she drilled all her rehearsal kicks regardless of pressure.
Cue the game against Noble and a third quarter point-after touchdown attempt. The blocking scheme for Goethe broke down, leaving the kicker exposed to an oncoming pass rush. Her attempt was blocked, and she was "smeared" by Noble defenders.
That hit, it turns out, may have been a mistake.
"It just made me mad," Goethe told the Globe's John Hoover. "But it didn't hurt."
That toughness plays into precisely why the team's veteran members rallied behind their new kicker from the day she walked into the team's huddles.
"She competes," Tecumseh senior co-captain Jordan Colvin told the Globe. "She's no different than any one of us. She's got long hair. That's the only difference. She wants it just as bad as we do."
In this case, Goethe's desire for a first win was palpable, and the earlier contact she faced may have helped steel the teen for her eventual game-winner. Knowing that she would survive even the worst oncoming hit, Goethe stuck in and drilled a 22-yarder that sent her team home as winners, carrying the teen off the field on their shoulders just three days after she kicked a football for the very first time.
Perhaps her coach, still adjusting to his new athlete, put her accomplishments in the best perspective:
"It was special," he [George] says. "She came out on Wednesday. Two days and you're thrown out in that position, first game, an overtime game, everybody's watching you, you come through. Ecstatic. Awesome. Euphoria."