Tolbert’s Kicks Sail Through Uprights, Into History Books
One of the state’s most storied programs has pretty much done it all. But Commerce found a way to make history in Week One. Sophomore Ivy Tolbert suited up for the Tigers, becoming the first girl to do so in a program that dates back to 1909.
She did more than just suit up though – she nailed an extra point and sent through a 26-yard field goal to secure a 10-0 win over Banks County. While she had always joked about kicking for the football team, it wasn’t until recently that became a real possibility.
“Coach [Mark] Hollars actually contacted my dad about two weeks ago and told him that he couldn’t find any boys for the job, so he asked me,” recalls Tolbert. “Kicking for the football team has always been something that many of the football coaches, players, and my friends and I have joked about me doing, so when I said I was actually doing it, no one believed me at first. It was only after my first full week that a lot of the boys believed I was actually playing.”
Tolbert is still young – just a sophomore – but was an All-State soccer player last season. She understands the magnitude of what she’s done.
“It is extremely special to be the first girl in the ‘brotherhood’,” says Tolbert. “The first time I ran on the field on Friday night, it was such a surreal experience to hear the announcer say my name. I feel extremely honored to hold the title of the first female in history to be on the Commerce football team, but what fills me with the most pride is seeing the younger kids’ (especially the young girls) reaction when they see a girl on the field.”
Being on the team and wearing the jersey in itself is quite the accomplishment. But what she did by making the extra point first, and later the field goal, took it to another level.
“I was extremely nervous and excited for my first extra point, but I knew that the boys both on the field and sideline were there to protect me,” states Tolbert. “My extra points have always been consistent in practice, so I wasn’t too worried about it going through the uprights. Waiting for the snap felt like an eternity due to my nerves! The feeling I had seeing the ball go through for the first time, though, was a feeling of pure pride and excitement. The cheering crowd, and pleased look on Coach Hollars’ face, made me realize how historic that moment actually was. During the field goal, however, it was after a rain delay and halftime, so I hadn’t had proper warmup time. This made me more nervous, but I was very relieved when I saw the ball made it through!”
She’s already earned the respect of her teammates, regardless of what happened on those kicks.
“I’ve had an extremely positive reaction from all of my teammates,” adds Tolbert. “I have been a very welcomed sister into ‘The Brotherhood.’ Between team meals, practices, and hanging out pregame, all of my teammates have done a terrific job of making me feel a part of the team. During our practice, after we finish our special teams practice, all of my teammates gather around me to call our ‘break’ into the water break. Also, the congratulatory helmet taps are always a great sign. I haven’t heard any reactions from any of our opponents, but it is still early in the season. I’m sure as word gets out about ‘Commerce has a girl kicker,’ I will hear from the other teams.”
For the record, kicking a football and a soccer ball are two very different things that require a different level of skill.
“The differences between kicking a soccer ball and a football are large,” explains Tolbert. “Between the part of your foot, and the placement on the ball, very little is similar. Every day after football practice, I have to go to soccer practice in Atlanta. Once I get to soccer, I have to relearn the movement of shooting a soccer ball, and then remember how to kick a football the very next day. The back-and-forth was difficult at first, but I’m beginning to get used to it.”
With Commerce sending out Tolbert after every TD this season, extra points are certainly no longer mundane.