High School Sports

She wore a tiara and helmet at homecoming and became a role model for girls across the US

Ocean Springs kicker Kaylee Foster has a message for young girls: ‘It’s OK to be you’

Ocean Springs High kicker Kaylee Foster has captured the nation's attention after being named homecoming queen and kicking the decisive extra point to push her football team to victory in the same night. But she's been kicking since the 7th grade.
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Ocean Springs High kicker Kaylee Foster has captured the nation's attention after being named homecoming queen and kicking the decisive extra point to push her football team to victory in the same night. But she's been kicking since the 7th grade.

Little girls across the U.S. want to be just like Kaylee Foster.

That’s the consensus on social media ever since the senior at Ocean Springs High School surged onto the national spotlight Friday night during the school’s homecoming football game against George County.

Kaylee was named the school’s homecoming queen prior to the game, receiving a tiara and a bouquet of white roses.

Once she had the ceremonial photos taken, she shed her long, black-beaded gown to suit up in a helmet and pads to take over as the place-kicker for the Greyhound football squad.

While most teenagers would still be giddy with joy over the fact that she was just elected homecoming queen by classmates, Kaylee coolly kicked a pair of field goals in regulation and clinched the 13-12 victory for the Greyhounds with an extra point in overtime.

Teammates rushed the field in celebration.

She again posed for photos in a tiara after the game — this time in her blue No. 15 jersey.

One Massachusetts school teacher, Rebecca Kaija, described on Twitter the reaction of her 9-year-old daughter when she read Kaylee’s story: “(She) just stared at this with her mouth wide open. Then finally said, ‘I want to be her!’”

Kaylee was humbled by the sentiment.

“That’s so exciting. I just never thought anybody would say that about me,” she said. “To hear a little girl wants to do that, that’s amazing. It’s so heartfelt.”

When asked what it’s like to suddenly become a role model, Kaylee paused to catch her breath and flashed a shy grin.

“I think it’s very sweet,” she said. “I don’t know. I guess I’ve never seen myself as a role model but I do try to be one, knowing the position I am in. I do want little girls to look at me and be like, ‘It’s OK to be me, be who I want to be, do things I want to do even though people may not think it’s OK. It is OK to be you.’”

Mississippi high school senior Kaylee Foster gave Ocean Springs High School a 13-12 victory after she kicked the game-winning extra point just after receiver her crown as homecoming queen.

‘So exhilarated’

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Kaylee was surrounded by family, friends and admirers to offer congratulations.

“I was so excited, so exhilarated that night,” she said. “I didn’t go to sleep until 2:30 (a.m.) because I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited, pumped.”

The next day, she got up early to take the ACT.

Kaylee said her return to school on Monday was a normal day of classes, but there was no getting around her new-found celebrity.

“I went to the bathroom today and some girl was like, ‘Hey, I saw you on the news,’ ” she said. “I was like, ‘Woah.’ It was kind of crazy.”

She has been the subject of countless media reports across the U.S. since her story went viral Friday night.

She has done interviews with major outlets like CNN and is set to travel to New York on Wednesday to meet Thursday with Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan for a feature. The piece will air on GMA Day, a new show co-hosted by Strahan that airs at noon on weekdays on ABC after “Good Morning America.”

Kaylee’s mother, Rendy, has been handling the media requests since they first started pouring in on Saturday.

“She is very overwhelmed,” Rendy Foster said. “She had no idea this would happen and then she heard from a text about a girl that kind of wanted to be her. That just excited her. It’s sweet.

“She’s been very tired. She continues to do her school work and all her stuff. She’s been typical Kaylee. She’s gone to soccer practice and hasn’t missed any of her events.”

Luckily, her schedule is lightened a little by the fact that the football team is in a bye week. She does, however, have a select soccer tournament to attend on Saturday in Hattiesburg, and she fully plans on being there.

Kaylee likes the idea of stepping into the spotlight of New York City, but she understands there’s a risky side of shedding her anonymity.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a little scary,” Kaylee said. “It’s a little weird knowing people are going to know who I am, but it’s kind of exciting too.”

Picking up football

Kaylee is a standout for the Ocean Springs girls soccer team and has verbally committed to join the squad at Mississippi College, where she plans to study accounting. She admits that it would be tough to give football a try at Division II Mississippi College considering the demands of college soccer.

A little encouragement she received from a sixth-grade teacher first gave her the idea of giving football a try.

“I always really liked it,” Kaylee said. “My family, when we’d go up to my grandmother’s house, all of my cousins and us we’d all play football in the yard. I never thought it would be something I’d do for the school. It was just something I do for fun.

“When I was in sixth grade about to head into seventh grade, Coach (Wade) Vick was like, ‘Kaylee, I really want you to play football. I think you’d be a great kicker. Go home and ask your mom.’ Next thing I know, I’m trying out for football.”

Kaylee served as the high school team’s backup kicker a year ago, converting her lone extra-point try of the season.

As a senior, she has become one of the more accurate kickers on the Coast. She has hit all 12 of her extra points this season and made three of four field-goal attempts with a long of 42 yards.

“She’s been consistent when she’s gotten a chance to score points,” Ocean Springs football coach Ryan Ross said. “When in range, she’s done a good job.”

Since she picked up the football in middle school, Kaylee has had the support from the male players in the Ocean Springs program.

“They look out for her. They treat her like she’s one of them,” Ross said of his players. “The thing about Kaylee that will win you over is she’s such a competitor. She’s out there to contribute and compete just like anybody else. These guys have been with her since middle school. They know what type of competitor she is. For us, we’re used to it. It’s not a big deal.”

While Kaylee may be just another member of the football team, her combination of homecoming queen and game-winning kicker have turned her into a sudden celebrity.

“It’s very unreal,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s actually happening.”

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee.