When Destrehan High School freshman Merritt Tompkins was scheduling classes, a classmate noted he had never seen a female take part in the football-centered P.E. class.
So she simply thought, “I can do that.” And that can-do attitude eventually led to Tompkins making school history as the first female athlete to ever be a member of the DHS football program.
A kicker on the school’s freshman team, Tompkins said it’s been an exciting experience and one she’s quite proud of. “It’s been the best experience I could ask for,” she said.
“Everything’s new, and there are a lot of new things the coaches have had to deal with, just because obviously this isn’t an everyday thing for them (to have a female on roster), but I think we’ve all handled it really well.”
Aside from one blocked kick, Tompkins hasn’t missed a single field goal for the freshman squad, where she rotates at the position with a teammate.
DHS freshman coach Josh Bordelon said Tompkins has been a joy to have on the team.
“She’s been great. Her personality makes it very easy for her to be on the team … she gets along with everyone,” he said. “When she comes on the field, everyone treats her the same as anyone else. She’s a very good kicker and she’s been training and practicing for a while now. I think it’s something she’ll definitely be able to stick with and be successful.”
Bordelon said Tompkins has been able to do anything asked, be it making a field goal or kicking off, and he never has to worry about putting her into the game in a big spot.
“Again, it’s just her personality … she’s ready to roll at all times,” Bordelon said.
Tompkins said her parents were excited to hear of her plans to join the team, though it came with some trepidation.
“Of course, they were a little nervous,” she said. “I started training with the team over the summer and doing my own little thing (in training) and ended up on the team. And here I am now.”
Tompkins brings a strong leg with her to the football field. A longtime soccer player since the age of four, she’s also a member of the Destrehan soccer team, where she plays goalkeeper.
“It’s helped both ways,” she said. “(In soccer) my kicks are a lot longer than usual since I began football, because I’m so focused on kicking. It’s great to practice in different ways, both physically and mentally.”
Tompkins is also a member of the school’s golf team — another new hobby of hers.
It also isn’t lost on her that she might just become a trendsetter.
“It really means a lot to me that another girl might say, ‘whoa, she did it, that means I can do it.’ Not even just in football, but any sport, or anything they believe they can do,” she said. “They should know their gender isn’t something that should block them from going after it.”