AUBURN, Ala (WRBL) – Auburn High School’s Junior Varsity football team is teeing up to make history Wednesday night as the Tigers take on Lagrange High School. If the team’s sophomore kicker can place it between the goalposts, she’ll become the first girl to score in Auburn High School football history.
Ellie Rodning was five years old when she started playing soccer. She’s a defender on Auburn’s JV soccer team. In March of 2020, she had ACL surgery. The surgery, plus rehab, sidelined her for most of the 2021 football season. However, Rodning was cleared to kick three weeks ago and has been practicing non-stop.
“You have to get your head straight. It’s about mentality. You have to believe you can do it,” said Rodning.
Rodning says she first became interested in being a kicker when former Auburn High School assistant football coach Tony Ford mentioned it. Ford’s daughter and Rodning are good friends, and Ford knew Rodning had a strong leg with a soccer ball. Former Auburn High School Coach Adam Winegarden liked the idea. When Ford and Wingarden left the program, Rodning approached the new football coach, Keith Etheredge, about kicking. Etheridge welcomed her to the team. He ensured she had access to the girl’s locker room for dressing out and spoke to the players about making sure she was accepted as a valuable member of the Auburn High School football family.
“We’ve got a great situation here. We have great kids here who take care of one another. They look at her as a sister, and they are protective of her. She’s gonna help our football team. She’s gonna kick some extra points tomorrow night and hopefully be the first girl to score some points in football for Auburn High School,” said Coach Etheredge.
Rodning says all her football coaches have helped encourage her and pushed her to be her best.
“She’s a hard worker. I know she had some injuries during the off-season, and I feel like she has worked hard, and she has improved every single day. She has a chance to kick in her first game on our JV team coming up tomorrow night, and I am excited about that. She has faced a lot of adversity, and we feel like she is ready to kick, and I can’t wait to see her kick,” said AHS Special Teams Coach Reginald Smith.
Rodning knows many people will be watching, including younger girls, in the stands Wednesday night. It’s a lot of pressure, but she’s ready.
“I hope I can inspire other girls that are thinking about doing something like this. It’s tough, but there are so many great things about it. They helped me pick out my homecoming dress yesterday. It’s fun. They are like my big brothers, and they take care of me,” said Rodning.
When Rodning puts on her helmet Wednesday night, her main focus is to make her coaches, teammates, and family proud by helping the Tigers to victory.
Making history is extra.