A soccer star is making news on the gridiron. That may be U.S. Women’s National Team soccer icon Carli Lloyd’s present, but it’s also the recent past for a Thorns FC player with prominent local connections. As some familiar with the last decade of Portland sports know, there was a time when the Thorns’ own Bella Bixby, then a placekicker at Milwaukie's Rex Putnam High School, was making headlines on a different football field.
Those days are long past for the former Bella Geist, but with a U.S. legend in the headlines for her exploits with the pigskin, The Quick 3 thought it the perfect time to drive down memory lane with one of the youngest Thorns.
Thorns FC: I don’t think a lot of people know this – maybe a lot of local people will – but you have a history with doing what Carli Lloyd is trying, right now. What is your history on the football field?
Bixby: I was a field goal and PAT kicker for my high school for three years. I made varsity. I made all-league my senior year.
ThornsFC.com: So just a little history.
Bixby: I just went to football games on Fridays. (Laughs.) And kicked field goals.
ThornsFC.com: For those that aren’t familiar with kicking field goals and PATs, what would you say is the most difficult part about it?
Bixby: Just the timing. You obviously have to strike the ball as soon as it’s placed by the holder. You can’t wait too long or you’re going to get (blocked), right? I’d say the actual kicking of the ball is no problem, especially for soccer players. I’m not surprised that Carli Lloyd nailed a 55-yard field goal. That’s not the hard part. It’s the timing.
(Author's note: After some small talk about the reaction to Lloyd's field goal at Philadelphia Eagles practice, in which I offered the world "misogynist," Bixby added her thoughts on how football's physicality fit into the reaction.)
People say that she would get pummeled. Have you seen kickers? They’re not very big. They’re not very fast. My guess is that’s why they’re kickers – no offense.
People saying that she’d get pummeled? So would any kicker. They’re kickers. Yeah, I thought it was very misogynistic, the responses about a woman being on a football team.
I’m a big-framed woman – I’m 6-foot-1 – but when I was in high school, I was 40 pounds lighter than I am now, and some snaps went over my head. I wasn’t always just in there striking PATs. Some of the snaps were bad and I had to play it live. I made it out in one piece.
ThornsFC.com: What advice would you give Carli Lloyd? Not that she needs your advice, but what advice would you give another field goal kicker about how best turn their passion into an all-league-, varsity-level career.
Bixby: My advice would be to just go with it. When I was in the beginning of it – I started when I was a sophomore – I got a lot of weird looks. I got a lot of, ‘how can we make this easier for Bella, because she’s a girl.’ It’s like, ‘no.’ You need to stand up for yourself and advocate for yourself, that this isn’t any different just because you’re a woman or a girl.
It’s not that hard of a job. Sorry, I know I’m not in the NFL, but I’d say advocate for yourself. Obviously, as women, we have to do a little bit more proving it than some other people in this world. People want to see the results before they think otherwise. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. You’ve just got to get out there and prove that you’re a good kicker, that this is what you like to do, and that you’re good at it.