Taylor Haire is 5-for-6 on extra points this season as the Matanzas Pirates placekicker.
Taylor Haire loves waking up in the morning, putting on her mascara and other makeup necessities. Then, she heads off to school.
Haire, a senior at Matanzas, is like most other girls on campus.
But when the final bell rings, she’s radically different.
Each afternoon, Haire heads to the football field, puts on her shoulder pads and helmet, laces her cleats and gets to work.
Haire is a kicker on the Pirates football team.
She got into football when she was a junior. Coach Jeremy Schaefer was coaching the junior-varsity squad, and he asked her to try out. Initially, she said no. But after discussing it with her dad, she changed her mind.
Haire headed to the school on a Saturday while JV was practicing. She took a few practice kicks and just like that, she was the JV kicker.
Toward the end of her junior season, head coach Keith Lagocki asked Haire whether she planned on playing her senior year. Christian Benvenuto would be graduated, and the team needed a kicker.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play this year, but I decided I wanted to,” Haire said Monday afternoon as her eyeliner blended with sweat from taking practice kicks.
Haire likes kicking because it gives her an adrenaline rush.
“It’s so nerve-racking knowing that I could be hit or tackled,” she said. “But it shows that girls can do just as much as guys can.”
Lagocki said there’s no special treatment for Haire. The team accepts her. She’s just another player on the team.
“It’s really not that big of a deal,” Lagocki said. “The players and coaches don’t really make a big deal about it. She is just one of our teammates.”
Haire said she has felt welcomed by her varsity teammates, much like she was last year on the JV team.
Haire, also a three-year starter on the Lady Pirates soccer team, is primarily an extra-point specialist. She is 5-for-6 this season — her only miss came Sept. 2 against Flagler Palm Coast.
Haire went 9-for-11 last season. She can split the uprights from at least 35 yards in practice. In a game, she has only had the opportunity to convert field goals from about 20 yards.
But she said the technical aspect of kicking a football actually has helped her in soccer.
“Football is more of a flow technique ... so it helps me in soccer to I know where to put my plant foot,” she said. “It’s the more technical aspect of kicking the ball.”
However, when Haire isn’t actually playing, she’s not a huge football fan.
“I’ll watch with my dad and boyfriend,” she admitted.
Her boyfriend, Robert Owen, is an offensive lineman on the Pirates team.
Nonetheless, her work ehtic has gained her the respect of her coaches.
“She doesn’t expect to be treated any differently from anyone else,” Lagocki said. “She is a super nice person, and it’s nice to see the success she is having because it doesn’t always work out that way.”
After high school, Haire hopes to attend either the University of North Florida or the University of Central Florida. She wants to study physical therapy and hopes to play soccer.
And in college, she’ll probably keep her makeup on then, too. Even if it gets in her eyes while playing soccer.
“I always wear my makeup for the games,” Haire said. “I never take it off. It’s a waste if you take it off before the day is over.”
The kicking game in football often goes unnoticed and underappreciated. So, in honor of all the kickers playing football, here are some foot-related factoids:
In the NFL Monday night, Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski (who graduated from Seabreeze, in Volusia County) tied the NFL record by slamming a 63-yard field goal through the uprights in the first half against the Denver Broncos.
Janikowski is now tied with former Broncos kicker Jason Elam (who nailed a 63-yard field goal in 1998) and Tom Dempsey (1970).
Ashley Martin was the first female (unofficially) to score a point in an NCAA Division I game when she converted an extra point for Jacksonville State University Aug. 30, 2001.