By Rubin E. Grant
Eddie and Michelle Crim have been attending Homewood football games for a number of years to support their three daughters, but this year it’s different.
Instead of watching a daughter cheer for the Patriots as a varsity cheerleader, as their oldest daughter, Hannah, did, or watching a daughter perform as a Star Spangled Girl in the band, as their middle daughter, Bella, did, this season they are watching their youngest daughter, Katie, actually play football.
Katie Crim, a 15-year-old sophomore, is the Patriots’ place-kicker. She’s the first girl to play varsity football at Homewood.
She doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal.
“I’ve always played with boys, beginning on the playground in elementary school at Shades Cahaba,” Katie Crim said.
When she reached middle school, she saw a parental consent form about trying out for the football team. “I grabbed the sheet and said to myself, ‘I think I should try this,’” she recalled.
She took the form home and asked her parents to sign it. Her parents kept putting it off, then the day before it was due to be turned in, they signed it.
“I was hoping she would drop it,” Michelle Crim explained. “I tried to redirect her. I told her that she was happy playing soccer and should just stick to that, but she was insistent.”
When she saw how determined Katie was, Michelle Crim sought advice from Steve Sills, the head coach at Homewood Middle School.
“He has three daughters, and he knew all of my daughters,” Michelle Crim said. “I told him I had a situation that my daughter wanted to play football. He said if she wanted to play, to let her play.”
Thus, Katie Crim began her football journey, although the boys on the middle school team didn’t readily accept her.
“It took a while for them to come around,” she said. “You know, they were just being middle school boys. I guess they weren’t as mature as the boys in high school. It’s great now.”
Crim is one of three girls who are kickers on high school teams in Alabama this season, joining Hewitt-Trussville’s Jordan Lynn and Wicksburg’s Ashton White.
A Young Football Fan
Crim was in kindergarten when she became interested in football, but her family had nothing to do with it.
“We are not a football family,” Michelle Crim said. “We didn’t take the girls to games when they were growing up. It was all Katie.
“She fell in love with football when she was 4 or 5 years old. She would watch ESPN GameDay and she knew all the players who played for Alabama, and she knew all the stats. She could have intelligent conversations with grown men about football.”
Crim finds it difficult to put into words her love of football.
“I don’t really know how to explain what I like about football,” she said. “It just makes me happy.”
Although she played football on the playground, Crim grew up playing the international version of the game, soccer. She started out as a defender but shifted to goalkeeper.
She plays soccer year-round, including this fall as a member of a BUSA club team. Some days she leaves football practice to go play in a club game. Next spring, she hopes to be the Patriots’ starting goalkeeper on the girls team as they try to defend their Class 6A state championship.
But please don’t say Crim is a soccer player who just happens to play football. She won’t have any of it.
“I’m a two-sport athlete,” she said emphatically. “I’m just very competitive.”
Homewood has embraced Crim as part of the varsity football program.
“She kicked all the way through the seventh and eighth grades and on the freshman team,” Homewood head coach Ben Berguson said. “She’s one of the guys. She has a cool personality, and she’s very likable.”
Senior wide receiver Trae Ausmer believes it’s cool having Crim for a teammate.
“I like having her on the team,” said Ausmer, who’s also the holder on Crim’s kicks. “It’s something different.”
Longtime Homewood assistant coach David Jones, who coaches the kickers, said one reason Crim is so popular with her teammates is she keeps them from having to do extra running in practice.
“At the end of practice, we run ‘gassers,’” Jones said of a conditioning drill involving running. “About halfway through, we spot the ball and call out the field goal team and say if she makes it, they don’t have to run any more. She hasn’t missed one of those, yet.”
Crim has missed only one kick in a game, going 11 for 11 on extra points and 3 of 4 on field goals. Crim kicked two field goals, covering 28 and 29 yards, against Pelham in the third game and a 27-yarder against Helena the next week.
“She’s so consistent and accurate,” Jones said. “Our players have a lot of confidence in her.”
She missed her first goal in Homewood’s 22-21 homecoming loss to Center Point last week, a hurried 37-yarder in the fourth quarter that had the distance but went a little wide left.
Crim, who wears jersey No. 83, will be looking to make a few more kicks when Homewood (1-4) visits Minor (2-4) at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 6A, Region 5 game.
Taking Over as Homewood’s Kicker
Crim entered the season sharing place-kicking duties with junior Nic Burczyka. She was slated to be the short-range kicker and Burczyka was going to kick long field goals. But Burczyka injured his hip in the first game against Hueytown and had to leave the team.
Crim took over as the main place-kicker in the second game against Vestavia Hills. Senior linebacker Alex Ray is available for long-range field goal attempts.
“Alex has a strong leg, but Katie is much more consistent,” Jones said. “As the season has progressed, her distance has increased.”
Crim was caught off caught guard when the coaches told her she would be the main place-kicker. “I was like, ‘What?’ ‘Really?’” Crim said. “I got nervous, but I was also excited. I felt all the emotions.
“I still get nervous, but it’s a little less each game. I am getting more comfortable. My biggest satisfaction is I’m getting the chance to go out there and kick.”
Ausmer attempts to make sure Crim stays relaxed before each kick. “I try to make her laugh, so she doesn’t feel nervous,” he said.
Crim hasn’t attended any kicking camps to enhance her skills because during the summer she’s playing club soccer. When she was in the eighth grade, she received a few pointers from former Samford kicker Michael O’Neal, who also kicked at Vestavia Hills.
“He taught me some of the basics, following through and keeping my head down. That was my first training lesson,” Crim said.
Crim remembered those instructions when she kicked her first goal against Pelham, but the moment was surreal.
“I was shocked they were putting me in,” she said. “After I kicked it and I felt it was a good kick. I was hoping it would go through and when it did, I was like, ‘Wow,’ it did go through. I think it went right down the middle.
“I practice all the time, and in little moments I just trust what I am doing, and it always comes through.”
Crim’s sisters get a kick out of her playing football, although they are now in college, Hannah at Ole Miss and Bella at Alabama, and rarely get to see her play.
“They think she’s a rock star,” Michelle Crim said. “Whenever I send them a clip, a picture or an article about Katie, they get excited. They are so proud of her.”
Crim appreciates the support from her parents, sisters and the community.
“We’re like a big family,” she said. “The community is behind me and the whole team.”
But she’s not all that caught up in the historical hype about being the first girl to play varsity football at Homewood.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Crim said. “My ultimate goal is to be the best I can be.”