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Mangold wants to follow in older brother’s footsteps

KETTERING, Ohio – As a young girl, Holley Mangold loved the contact of football and would even show off her bruises as a badge of honor.

“I thought they were really cool,” she said.

That toughness will be tested this year when the 17-year-old senior prepares for playing time at Alter High School in this Dayton suburb – helping anchor the offensive line, fending off girls-shouldn’t-play-football attitudes, and trying to emerge from the shadow of her brother, Nick, center for the New York Jets and a former standout at Ohio State.

“It’s really rough. I’m not going to lie about that,” she said of trying to make her own way in the jet wash of her brother’s accomplishments.

Holley has the physical tools and strength.

She weighs 315 pounds, bench presses 265 pounds and has squatted 525 pounds.

How strong is she? She escaped serious injury in a recent head-on collision that demolished her truck by pushing the steering wheel away from her body as the crash occurred, leaving the steering wheel broken and crumpled.

Holley lettered last season, playing more than 20 quarters in regular-season and playoff games on a team that went 14-1 and finished the season with a one-point loss in the state Division III finals. And she had an answer for opponents who hoped they could easily slip by her to stuff the run or rush the passer.

“They quickly learned that that just wasn’t going to work,” she said.

Several Division I-AA, Division II and Division III colleges have already expressed interest in Holley’s football-playing abilities.

Few women have played high school football in Ohio or on the college level.

According to the NCAA, the first woman to play in a college football game was Liz Heaston at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., in 1997.

Katie Hnida joined the University of Colorado football team in 1999 as a walk-on kicker, but never got into a game. She transferred to New Mexico in 2002 and the next year became the first woman to score in a Division I-A football game, kicking two extra points.

Holley’s road to the gridiron hasn’t been the smoothest.

Her father initially discouraged her from playing Pee Wee football, fearing she would be hazed or harassed.

“I was dead set against it,” recalled Vern Mangold.

But he gave in at his wife’s urging and on condition that he be her coach. Today, he feels his daughter is a special case and should be playing.

“Occasionally, I become a little frustrated with other adult men who are skeptical of her as a football player,” Mangold said.

Alter coach Ed Domsitz was less than enthusiastic at first about Holley playing football and would jokingly steer her to cheerleader tryouts.

“I don’t think any high school coach is too excited about a girl coming out because it means problems,” Holley said. “No matter if the girl is a wonderful person or not, it still means you’ve got something extra you’ve got to deal with.”

Holley remembers parents and players gasping when they saw a girl playing Pee Wee football. She endured jeers from opposing players and fans when she made a good play and put a tiny chink in the male dominance of the sport.

Despite the emotional nicks along the way, Holley has held up well.

With a warm smile framed by golden locks, she can show a soft and vulnerable side. She’s modest – even pokes fun at herself.

She acknowledges that academics have been a challenge and that she’s had to work hard to get her grades up to A’s and B’s. She has a weakness for television. (“Law and Order SVU,” “Will and Grace,” “The Simpsons”) And she readily admits she is lazy about some things.

“When I have to clean, I stuff things under the bed,” she said. “I almost paid a little kid $40 to mow the lawn. I really do try to get out of a lot of stuff.”

But not football, which she finds fun. And being the only girl on the field doesn’t seem to faze her. She says her male teammates are rough, but very accepting.

“They tear me up every day, but I do the same thing back to them,” she said. “Half the time they forget I’m actually a girl. I don’t talk like one. I don’t act like one. But they’re the guys if I ever had a problem, I could call.”

Holley bears the nickname “Mother Wolf” from a letter she got from a semipro team called the Wolverines, and her teammates often greet her by howling like wolves.

Domsitz said Mangold is strong, tenacious and a hard worker. But he said she lacks quickness and needs to work on that.

“For her to start and play the whole time, I think right now I would say it’s still a long shot,” he said. “She’s going to have to really step up.”

Tim Edwards, offensive line coach, said Mangold is probably one of the team’s strongest offensive line players and that fellow players dread going up against her in one-on-one drills.

“She anchors down, and they can’t move her,” he said.

Fellow player Tom Duke, 17, of Centerville, can attest to that.

“She’s kicked my butt,” he said. “She really drives you right back.”

Duke said Mangold has a sense of humor and can take a joke, a key to surviving on a high school football team. And he said she fits in with her male teammates.

“We’ve been playing with her since seventh grade, so we’ve kind of accepted her as our own,” he said.

Holley knows she is a pioneer of sorts. But she only wants to encourage girls to play football if they truly have a passion for it, not as an attention-getting move.

“I would hope I would inspire people to do what they want to, instead of doing what people have told them is right,” she said.

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