FORTVILLE — Most football players put on their gear the same way before each game. First the socks, then the pants. Next comes the shoulder pads and helmet. Everyone has a routine.
For Blaire Viehweg and Alex Quillin, their pregame ritual ends a little differently — with a hair tie.
As the only female football players in Hancock County, the two are trailblazers.
Viehweg, a senior kicker who also plays soccer, is in her second season with the Mt. Vernon (3-3) football team. She’s appeared in two games this season and has connected on all three of her extra-point attempts.
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Quillin, a 5-foot-3 senior kicker, plays for the No. 2 Eastern Hancock Royals (6-0) and also is active in cheerleading and track.
Last year while joking around in class, Viehweg said she wanted to play football. Her teacher at the time happened to be coach Kyle Jarman, the Marauders’ kicking coach.
“He told me to ask coach (Doug) Armstrong and I did,” Viehweg said. “He loved the idea and said we should try it. I worked out with the kicker last year and absolutely loved it.”
For Quillin, though, it was personal. She’s always loved football. After being a gymnast for 10 years, she needed to scratch a competitive itch. After working out with the football team as a freshman and sophomore during the summer, she decided it was her turn.
“Playing football derives from my hunger for hard work,” she said. “My junior year I decided I didn’t want to watch them go down stairs (to the field) without me anymore. I wish I would have started sooner.”
However, being the only girl on the team does present its challenges. Viehweg said it has nothing to do with football, though. She struggles to keep soccer and football separate.
“There are habits you have in soccer that are necessary but not in football,” Viehweg said, who can drill a 40-yard field goal in practice. “Like steps to the ball and placement of where you kick.”
Quillin said it’s not the tackling drills or cheer practice and homework after football. It’s not even kicking in front of stands full of people.
“Being accepted is the hardest part,” she said. “I may not be as big or strong or fast, but I will be for them, for my brothers. I am their sister, and I will put myself on the line for them.
“I was an only child until 2014, and then I was given 62 brothers. We’re a family, that’s what family does.”
Viehweg and Quillin’s teammates have had little problem adapting.
Juwann Nelson, a wide receiver for Mt. Vernon, said Viehwig’s presence has not changed anything for the Marauders.
“She is treated just like everyone else,” he said. “And she’s not just ‘the girl on the team.’ She is 100 percent capable of hitting extra-points. The team knows we can count on her.”
Although Viehweg jokingly added, “Most of them are jealous I get my own locker room.”
Royals’ running back Devin Denny said the team responded well when Quillin joined the roster.
“I’ve enjoyed playing with her a lot, because she’s my cousin,” he said. “At first, it was kinda weird. She is like one of the guys now and does everything that the guys do.”
Viehweg was named homecoming queen on Sept. 18 at Mt. Vernon’s home game against Delta. She was dressed in full football gear. She said she always dreamed of winning queen but never in a pair of burly pads.
But she wouldn’t trade the “indescribable” experience for anything. Viehweg said girls shouldn’t worry about what the boys think either, because deep down, they probably admire it.
“No words can describe how cool is it to kick under those Fright night lights,” she said.
The biggest lesson Quillin will take from football is doing things for other people, not only yourself.
“Our football program stresses the game is bigger than football, it stresses the game of life,” she said. “It stresses we go narrow, because that leads to a successful life. Never wide, because that leads to destruction.”
Not only does the pair share a love for football, they serve on the Youth Council for Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse. Four students from each county school make up a board of 16 students.
But when asked a competitive question, like who would win a kicking contest between the two? The answers were surprisingly modest, yet humorous.
Viehweg deflected by saying, “I don’t think it would matter who won between us, just the fact that we would both beat the boys.”
Added Quillin, “Blaire would win. She’s a soccer player. But I’d be better at cheering her on after she kicks.”
Favorite Movie: “She’s the Man”
Favorite Song: “Demons” by Imagine Dragons
Favorite Athlete: Tobin Heath, U.S. women’s national team
Inspiration: Former teammate Olivia Coleman
Best Joke: “Don’t worry; I’ll hold your stuff. You just worry about making friends.” – Cargo Shorts
Favorite Movie: “Miss Congeniality”
Favorite Song: “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars
Favorite Athlete: (boyfriend) Devyn Brinson of Eastern Hancock Football
Inspiration: “Kites fly higher against the wind.” – Winston Churchill
Best Joke: “Anything Kevin Hart says!”