BLOODWORTH GETTIN’ HER KICKS/Russellville freshman learning the ropes as placekicker with Panthers football team


RUSSELLVILLE — They line up for windsprints, across the practice field.

Some of the players are faster than others. Some are bigger. Much bigger.

And toward the end of the line, near the edge of the football practice field at Russellville High School, Madden Bloodworth is dutifully trying to keep pace.

She’s a little on the small side.

Wait … what?

Bloodworth, the Panthers’ freshman placekicker, has always wanted to play football. Her father, Pete Bloodworth, was a punter and placekicker at Austin Peay State University, and he also toiled as a tight end and linebacker as a teenager at White House (Tennessee) High School, just 90 minutes or so from the Russellville High School campus.

One day, almost out of the blue, Madden Bloodworth told her parents, Pete and Maria Bloodworth, that she wanted to try out for the Panthers’ football team. Her elder brother, sophomore lineman Miller Bloodworth, remembers that day as well as anyone.

“No one took her seriously, at first,” Miller Bloodworth said.

Soon enough, however, they did.

Russellville High School’s football team plays at the KHSAA Class 1A level, and they have just two 1st District opponents, Fulton County High School and Crittenden County High School. Fifth-year Russellville head coach Mikie Benton estimates the school has an enrollment of only 315 to 320 students, so live bodies on the practice field can sometimes be an issue.

Madden Bloodworth wanted to be in that number, as they intone at New Orleans Saints games. She was ready to go marching in with her teammates.

And earlier this summer, Bloodworth became the Panthers’ teammate. Nothing too unusual here. Just a pony-tailed, 5-foot-3, 108-pound placekicker with a bright smile and WITHOUT a Y chromosome.

She’s thrilled to be here.

“I come from a football family,” Madden Bloodworth said. “I guess I woke up one morning and told myself, ‘I want to play football.'”

Pete Bloodworth, Madden’s father, had encouraged his daughter to try soccer, to help her conditioning and confidence. Madden wasn’t really interested.

But she was interested in kicking a football through the goal posts, and she found herself doing just that with her Dad, two or three times a week during the spring semester.

“She’s been interested, in kicking, for a long time,” Pete Bloodworth said. “She knew she could kick. She’s been persistent …”

Then, one hot, humid summer day at Russellville High School, Panthers football coach Mikie Benton, the former UK defensive back, stumbled upon Madden Bloodworth putting the ball on a kicking tee and sending it toward the uprights.

“She was out there, kicking the ball,” Benton recalled. “I saw her hit a field goal from 25 yards out, and that was all I needed to see …”

Madden Bloodworth was a Panthers football player.

“This has been my dream, really, for six or seven years,” she said. “I’d been asking my Dad about it, and he kept trying to get me on the soccer field … Finally, I guess, he gave in.”

Perhaps it’s not really that surprising.

Madden Bloodworth is named after the late, great John Madden, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who made his mark as a head coach, a broadcaster and a contributor. Pete Bloodworth said he’s been playing the Madden football video game for years, and he liked Madden’s personable nature.

Miller Bloodworth, Madden’s big brother, is an offensive lineman and defensive end for the Panthers, and he was on the field last December when Russellville squared off with Pikeville High School in the KHSAA Class 1A state championship game at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.

Miller was just a freshman then, so he knew he’d be there largely in a supportive role. His kid sister, Madden, was in the stands with her parents.

Perhaps that was the moment Madden Bloodworth knew she had to play football.

“Madden gets along well with everybody here,” Russellville coach Mikie Benton said. “She’s fit in, very well.”

Of course, they have to make some allowances.

The Panthers’ football players dress and shower in the Russellville Field House, adjacent to the practice fields. Madden Bloodworth gets dressed in the girls’ locker room.

After practice, she usually goes home in her uniform.

And usually with a big smile on her face.

“She just kept at it, didn’t get discouraged,” Miller Bloodworth said.

Octavious McKeage, the Panthers’ sophomore quarterback, seldom leaves the field when it’s time for Russellville to square off with an opponent.

McKeage is a safety, on defense. He’s the Panthers’ punter, and also handles kickoffs. And he’s the holder for Madden Bloodworth for extra points and field goals. Sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Grayson Beard is the deep snapper.

Bloodworth, meanwhile, is McKeage’s backup, on punts and kickoffs. She converted an extra point on opening night, when Russellville traveled to nearby rival Butler County on August 18, for a Thursday night game. The Bears defeated Russellville 35-13, and McKeage couldn’t handle a low snap after the Panthers’ second touchdown, so Bloodworth didn’t get a chance to put the ball through the uprights.

McKeage’s pass fell incomplete.

Madden Bloodworth is believed to be the first Russellville High School female to score a point for the Panthers’ football team. While her extra point against Butler County might not have been an artistic success, she DID get the job done.

“I kicked the laces,” Bloodworth recalled with a smile, “so it was a little bit of a line drive …”

Pete and Maria Bloodworth looked on, from the stands, beaming with pride.

“Madden always knew she could kick,” Pete Bloodworth said. “Her faith, and her dedication to it, have gotten her here. She’s still learning. She still needs to work on her flexibility …

“But she’s really taken to it.”

In the second week of the season, Madden Bloodworth’s extra-point attempt sailed left in a 48-6 loss to Class 3A Glasgow High School. As fate would have it, Russellville (0-2) and archrival Logan County (2-0) tangle on Friday night, and Bloodworth’s counterpart with the Cougars is sophomore Kyla Bilyeu, a female who also plays soccer for Logan County.

Bloodworth and Bilyeu haven’t met.


Logan County is a KHSAA Class 4A school, considerably larger than Russellville. But that’s par for the course with Mikie Benton, who likes to put a challenging schedule in front of his team to better prepare it for the postseason.

Pete Bloodworth said he’s covered the basics, as far as making a tackle, if the situation arises for his daughter, who checks in at a mere 5-foot-3 and 108 pounds.

“I’ve told her, ‘Go for the legs, wrap up, and hang on,'” Pete Bloodworth said with a laugh. “The cavalry’s coming … Just hang on.”

Good advice.

But from the outside, looking in, Madden Bloodworth is doing a lot more than just hanging on.

She’s found a home on the football field.