Pontotoc's Taylor Hughes Brings History, Motivation To The Fortius Project
"Is that the girl kicker from Pontotoc?"
That's the question that is asked when Taylor Hughes steps into a room. The volleyball and soccer star caught the state's attention in 2017 by becoming a kicker for the Pontotoc Warriors football team, a program that has gone deep into the postseason in recent years.
Not only is Taylor a girl that plays football, but she's pretty good. She will have the chance to show off her skills during the off-season at the Fortius Project at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
"Me and my dad had always joked around about me kicking one day, but never saw it actually happening," Hughes told SES Mississippi.
Hughes, who moved to Pontotoc as a sophomore, was known for her soccer prowess and leg strength. These talents are what caught the eye of the Warriors' football coaching staff.
"When [Jacob Carter] graduated my 11th grade year, they were looking for a kicker, and Coach [Jeff] Carter heard I could kick a soccer ball really far," Hughes said. "So one day at break he asked me to come down to the football field and try it, so I did."
Obviously, football and soccer are different sports with different kicking techniques, but with the right amount of work, Hughes fell right into place on the Pontotoc roster.
"It took a little getting used to because it's not the same as kicking a soccer ball at all," Hughes said. "I'm so happy I was even given this opportunity."
Being a girl in the sport of football comes with its fame, but it also comes with some strong opinions and expectations from those watching.
"The only thing that I think is negative about being a girl kicker is that people automatically think that you're not as good as a guy kicker," Hughes said. "People expect you to be weak."
According to Hughes, however, this opinion has not leaked over into the Warrior locker room.
"I'm treated on my team like any other player," Hughes said. "I'm required to work out with my team during the off-season. I'm glad that I'm not treated any differently."
Although she is not treated differently by her teammates, Hughes knows that she has a lot of eyes on her and that she is doing something important.
"I get motivation to play from knowing I'm doing something that many girls don't get the chance to do," Hughes said. "I'm out there showing little girls, and actually everyone, that you can do anything if you work hard and set goals for yourself."
A rising senior, Hughes knows that she not only has one season left to make an individual statement, but also only one more shot at helping her Warriors reach the state championship. She sees the Fortius Project as an opportunity to sharpen her skills for her final football season.
"I want to come to Fortius because I need to keep improving everyday," Hughes said. "I need to still be working and getting better, and I feel like the Fortius Project will help me do that."
The Fortius Project has never had a female participant. That will change in 2018.
To register for the Fortius Project at Northeast Mississippi Community College or any of the other locations, visit fortiusproject.com.
*Photo by John Macon Gillespie