TJ Grimsley was the kicker on Dillon's back to back state championship teams in 2008 and 2009. When he finished his record setting career with the Wildcats, the family joked that it was younger sister Tara's turn to keep the family tradition going. It turned out to not be a joke.
Jackie Hayes had planned on giving the kicking duties to Ahm Dawad, but visa problems during a trip to Egypt kept him from the team. The Wildcats head coach gave a call to Tara, who already was a varsity athlete on the basketball team and the 2A state championship runnerup softball team.
"She's just like another player," Hayes said. "She'll tell you right quick we treat her just like the rest of the players. She's fit in real well and has done a great job for us."
Grimsley has stepped in and been one of the steadiest kickers in the area. At one point, she connected on twenty consecutive PAT's. Heading into week 7, she is tied for 4th in the Chevy End Zone Stat Zone with 25 points. She has yet to connect a field goal, but she's proven that she has the range if Dillon needs to get three points. In the Wildcats win at Aynor, a penalty backed up her first extra point at the 15 yard line. She easily connected on what would have been a 25 yard field goal. On kickoffs, she is a directional kicker who sends up high lofting kicks to one side of the field inside the 15 yard line that allows the Dillon's special teams unit to quickly swarm around the returner.
Grimsley does bring a little fashion sense to her Dillon uniform. She wears bright green neon cleats and sports a pink mouthguard. The junior appreciates the compliments she has received for her kicking and notes that they aren't "You kick good for a girl".
"Actually, I've gotten a lot of - you're better than most kickers I've seen," Grimsley said.
Tara travels on the football team's bus on the way to road games and returns on the bus with the cheerleaders. She dresses in the varsity softball locker on Friday nights. She says it took a couple of days to get adjusted to being surrounded by the football team, but is comfortable and grateful that her teammates have her back.
Timmy Grimsley, Tara's father, admits that he and his wife are concerned about the possibility that their daughter may take a hit on a kickoff return, knowing that the natural athlete will gravitate towards the action instead of run away with it. "I've got a big line, so I'm not worried about it," Grimsley said. "If it happens, it happens. The boys have my back so I'm not worried about it."
It's safe to say that Tara has inherited about 40 big brothers including future South Carolina Gamecock linemen DJ Park and Bryce King. "At the end of the games I walk with her and make sure nobody messes with her. Everybody respects her like a teammate," King said. "She's gotten a lot better since she's started. I can't wait to see how she does at the end of the year."