WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to kickers, football coaches are looking for dependability. This season, the Wayland Wildcats have gotten just that.
“The consistency has been pretty solid,” said Wayland head coach Mike Doupe. “It’s gotten better every week. (I’m) not really surprised; (our kicker is) very, very very competitive — fits right in with the rest of the guys.”
However, this “guy” is actually a girl.
A four-year varsity soccer player at Wayland, McKenna Bruin also grew up a football fan.
“All my friends just kind of like kept pushing me towards like going out there to try it,” Wayland’s senior kicker said. “I got nervous, but then finally my mom got me to go out there. So I tried it one day and ever since then, it’s just kind of just been my thing.”
Wayland’s coaches brought McKenna in for a tryout with the entire team watching from the sidelines. When they put a ball out and saw her converting kicks, they knew she could help the team right away.
Doupe remembers her making an immediate impression.
“One of the first times we brought her out and were kicking with her, we put the ball down for a 40-yard field goal and she made it,” Doupe recalled.
“(My teammates) were surprised,” she said. “They were all on the sideline cheering and stuff.”
“We knew from Day 1 she was coming out and playing for us,” said teammate Aaric Roblyer. “She can kick.”
When game time came, McKenna’s teammates were there.
“The first time, I was so nervous,” she recalled. “I was like shaking in the locker room. But they were all like, ‘You’re fine, you’ve got this, you’ve done it plenty of times.”
With that support, McKenna’s confidence grew.
“Now, I walk out there like I’m used to it,” she said.
So far, McKenna has missed just one field goal and one extra point this season. In fact, she hit six extra points in a single game at Forest Hills Eastern.
“When she comes out and kicks field goals, we always know she’s going to make it,” Roblyer said. “She’s always just been there for us no matter what.”
“They’re very supportive,” McKenna said of her teammates. “They’re great teammates and they’re very protective too, which I love.”
And unless the ponytail gives it away, her opponents rarely realize she, is a she.
“Usually they don’t notice until I go out there, or like after the game (when) we high five each other,” McKenna said. “Then they’re like, ‘Oh, a girl.’ It’s funny. I like to watch their reactions.”
But to her teammates: “She’s just one of the guys,” Roblyer said.
And when Saturday’s rivalry game between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan rolls around, McKenna has a clear favorite:
“My uncle, Joel Mesman, played football for MSU,” she said. “So, we’re big State fans. We like watching football a lot at my house.”