Julia Broghammer needed a topic for a demonstration speech last fall.
The Windsor High School sophomore procrastinated on the project and at the last second decided to show how to kick a field goal, something her dad taught her when she was young. So she led her class onto H.J. Dudley Field to showcase her leg, and peering through the window from the weight room was then-Windsor football coach Chris Jones, who took notice of her ability to make a kick from 30 yards out.
Broghammer was eventually invited to participate in offseason workouts, and a year later she’s the starting kicker for the defending Class 4A state championship football team.
“The first practice, she was nailing all these field goals, and you couldn’t really believe it,” said quarterback Brad Peeples, who is the holder on field-goal attempts. “It’s cool. She’s out there playing with all the dudes and it doesn’t faze her.”
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These days, there’s an ever-growing list of women and girls who have made their mark on football teams at the high school and college levels; Katie Hnida of Littleton is one of the most famous. After kicking for Chatfield High, she suited up for the University of Colorado before transferring to New Mexico and successfully making two extra points in 2003, the first ever by a woman in a major college game.
And the trend continues: In Thornton, Halle Underwood is the starting kicker at Horizon, and locally, Clara Morgan is a backup at Rocky Mountain.
Rarely, though, is there evidence that a female kicker has had the kind of responsibility that Windsor could eventually place upon Broghammer. The preseason No. 1 team in the state, the Wizards are 3-2, having lost only to teams ranked fourth and sixth, and they’re ranked eighth heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. home game with Mountain View.
Being a kicker for a championship-level team can be seriously stressful.
“It hasn’t been hard, but it’s been challenging,” Broghammer said. “There are expectations. People have seen me kick in practice, but then in game situations, you wonder if you can perform.
“Being on a state champion team, it’s eye-opening. Our goal is to get back and win again, and if we’re going to get there, I need to be at my best and do well.”
There’s no doubt that Windsor believes in her.
“All the guys, and the coaching staff for sure, has confidence in her,” Windsor coach Skylar Brower said. “Over the years, we’ve sometimes struggled to find an accurate kicker to get the job done. Maybe initially people thought she was getting a chance because she was a girl, but she’s definitely earned it.”
Broghammer nailed a 32-yard field goal — her first of the season — in last Saturday’s win at Grand Junction. After a rough start on extra points — a combination of her perfecting her timing and poor protection by the line — she’s now 9 of 13 for the season. Brower said he’s confident in having Broghammer attempt field goals from as far as 42 yards out.
“She’s gotten better the last couple of weeks, too,” he said. “She’s getting more consistent with her approach and her timing. Kicking every day in practice really helps.”
She’s ironed out her approach (three steps back and two steps over) and her timing (she’s occasionally waited until the ball was placed before initiating her kick sequence).
A member of Windsor’s state semifinalist girls soccer team, Broghammer said she’s from a football family — watching Seahawks games is a typical Sunday activity, though mom is a Broncos fan — and they’ll throw a ball around once in a while.
Of teammates’ reaction to a girl joining the program, senior captain Tony Carr said: “It was a surprise when she came out. But then again, she plays soccer and she’s dang good, so it made sense. So it was a quick transition and we all accepted her. And then we saw how well she could kick the ball and it was, ‘Well, yep, this is going to work out fine.’”
Friends have made shirts saying “I love the kicker,” and her family cheers on.
“My mom loves it, especially. She’s a feminist and she’s so excited for me,” Broghammer said. “A girl can do it.”
She feels the confidence of her teammates, too, even after the season opener, when her first-ever point-after kick was blocked and she missed her second one.
“At halftime I was walking to the locker room and I just couldn’t believe it — I missed both of my chances,” she said. “Everyone was so supportive and told me I could do it.
“Then after my first made one, everyone was so excited. And after that, I thought, ‘I can do this. It’s happening. It’s real. I’ve made one in a game before and I can do it again.’ It was cool to see everyone’s reactions because they were all just crazy excited.”
At 5-foot-10 and (listed at) 140 pounds, an in-uniform Broghammer doesn’t look out of place on the field. She looks like a kicker. She said her hair, because it’s long and thick, has to be double-braided and pushed to the front of her head — because of the effort required, the helmet doesn’t come off during games.
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Maybe evidence of how Broghammer is thought of as a football player came in the season’s third game against Broomfield, when the conversion kick broke down and Peeples got up, scrambled and flipped the ball to the nearest open teammate. He wasn’t worried about whether there was a girl on the field.
But Broghammer was picked up and crunched by a defensive lineman.
“I felt so bad,” Peeples said.
Broghammer laughs it off.
“I don’t blame him, she said. “He’s a quarterback and his first instinct is to throw it to an open player. And I was the open player.
“He threw it, and then he saw that it was me … and his eyes just went wide-open. But I blanked and just stood there. I turned, and the guy lifted me up and threw me on the ground. I just got the wind knocked out of me, but everyone was asking me if I was all right, and I couldn’t talk.”
Brower said that Broghammer has the leg strength to handle regular kickoff duties as well, but there’s some hesitation in having her assume the kicker’s secondary responsibility in that situation as she’d be the last line of defense. She kicked off once earlier this season and almost found herself in harm’s way.
“He got to like the 30 or 35, and I was at the 50,” she said. “There was only one other person who could (tackle) him and I was freaking out because I didn’t know what I was going to do … I’ve never tackled before. But someone came around and tackled him for me — thank God.”
Something about Broghammer and the way her teammates talk about her tells you that with a little bit of work she could tackle just fine.
“I went to middle school with her and had P.E. class with her,” Carr said. “I always knew she was tough.”
And, yeah, the Wizards were hot last week when an opposing player ran into Broghammer after a kick. But that’s because teammates are supposed to stick up for their kicker. To Windsor, she is just another player on the roster trying win back-to-back state titles.
And if the time comes to kick that game-winner?
“I would be super-nervous,” she said. “My breathing pattern would be off and I’d be hyperventilating. But once the ball is snapped, all you have to do is get the ball through (the goalposts). Even if it’s ugly, it just has to get through.”