Holley Mangold doesn’t know what all the fuss is about, but pioneers are often the last to know about such things. Like Holley, they’re too busy chasing their dreams, which in her case is to play football.
“I don’t understand why it’s so amazing I do this or why it’s so different,” she told NBC’s Kevin Tibbles before a live appearance Tuesday with TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira. With her were her big brother, New York Jets’ rookie center Nick Mangold, and her father and first coach, Vern Mangold.
“I’m very proud of her,” Holley's brother told Vieira. “She goes out there all the time, works hard, and does the things people say she can’t do. If she moves on and gets into the college level, it gets 10 times harder, but I know she’ll be up for the task.”
Mangold isn’t playing football to get attention, and she’s not just an afterthought on her team, Alter High School, which came within one point of winning the Ohio high school championship last year.
A 17-year-old senior who weighs 315 pounds and can bench press 264 and squat 525, she won a varsity letter last year, appearing in 20 quarters of play as a back-up offensive lineman.
According to the Associated Press, she’s good enough to have attracted the attention of a number of colleges.
She’s done it despite the initial opposition of her own father when she first said she wanted to play. At age 6, she decided she wanted to be like her big brother.
“I didn’t want her to play football,” Vern Mangold confirmed. “My problem with that was I didn’t want to see her fail at something, be ridiculed. Let’s face it, a girl, even in the second grade, is going to be criticized for playing.”
He eventually relented, and allowed her to play on the Pee Wee team he coached. “The very first game she played in, they ran the ball at her twice and she stoned them both times,” he told Vieira. “I said, ‘You know, I think she can play this game. She has what it takes.’ "
If Mangold plays in college, she would be the third woman to do so and the first non-kicker. Liz Heaston kicked two extra points in four attempts as a back-up kicker at Willamette University in 1997. In 1999, another kicker, Katie Hnida, was a walk-on at the University of Colorado. After accusing her coaches and teammates of sexual harassment, she transferred to New Mexico, where she kicked two extra points in 2003.
Too slow to be pro
Vieira asked Holley if she thinks about following her brother into the NFL.
“I’m very, very slow,” she said with cheerful honesty. “That’s probably why I’m not starting right now, because I’m slow. And I’m short. And I’m not really in that much good shape. The NFL is not one of those things I’m thinking about, but college is definitely a reality. I’m just not sure yet.”
If she doesn’t play football in college, she has plenty of other athletic interests.
“Sports are defining for her. It’s something she lives for,” said Vern. “She also is a power lifter, an Olympic lifter. She also does track. Like all of our kids, they have a lot of activities; football just happens to be one of them.”
Vieira talked about how Hnida was harassed at Colorado and asked Holley is she was worried about that happening to her if she decides to try to play in college.
“I’m a really big person,” she said with a laugh. “I‘d like to see any guy try to do that. He’s not going to do that again.
“Unfortunately for her that happened,” she said of Hnida. “I read the story. I’ve lived around guys all my life. You’ve gotta know how to handle yourself around them. As long as you know how to tell them you’re here and this is what you’re doing, they’re not going to mess with you.”