Mangold's sister following in his footsteps

Updated: August 1, 2006, 10:01 PM ET
Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- When Jets center Nick Mangold started playing football in third grade, he developed his own little fan club.

Baby sister Holley idolized him. She got dragged to watch him practice and play in games. She used to play a little game with Nick at home, too. Nick would get down on his knees and then tell Holley and their other sister, Kelley, to tackle him.

Holley loved every second of it. She loved the hitting and tackling. Then she thought, "I want to play football, too." It hardly mattered that she was a little girl, and wanted to play offensive line -- practically unheard of for women getting involved in such a physical, violent game.

Their dad, Vern, was also against the idea. He admits, "I was old school. I didn't think girls should play football." Finally, mom Therese convinced Vern to let Holley play. She started in second grade and has followed in the same footsteps as her big brother, going into her junior year at Archbishop Alter High in Kettering, Ohio, with a chance to start at guard on the varsity team.

"I'd like to say I did it all on my own, but I was a little girl, he was my big brother. I saw he played football, I saw it was fun," Holley said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "So I said, 'Yeah, I'll play."

Holley, 16 and going into her junior year, played offensive and defensive line on her junior varsity team the last two years.

Sure, there have been female kickers who have gotten into games, but watching a 5-foot-9, 300-pound girl play offensive line is a different story. Holley said she never considered kicking, and offered apologizes to Jets starter Mike Nugent when asked why she decided to become a lineman.

"When anybody talks about being a kicker or anything like that, no offense to Nugent, but I've always thought kickers were not really part of it," she said. "They are a big part of the game but they don't get that rush of being out there. That's what I love about football, that's what kept me playing is being able to hit, and being able to run into somebody."

The 6-4, 300-pound Nick Mangold also starred at Alter, then went 80 miles down the road to Ohio State, where his stellar play allowed him to be taken No. 29 overall in the draft in April. He is penciled in to start for the Jets, replacing perennial Pro Bowl selection Kevin Mawae.

Though they have much in common, Nick rarely discusses football with anyone in his family. When he decides to say something to Holley about the game, it is only to give her tips or criticism.

"I stay out of it because I don't want it to be something like, 'Hey that's Nick Mangold's sister, fill in the blank," Nick Mangold said. "I let her do her own thing and let her make the mistakes and I'll be there. Unfortunately I don't get to see the games, but if I get back and see something, I'll tell her, 'You need to get over there, you need to get in better condition. As an older brother, I need to dig on her a little bit."

Nick is six years older than Holley, and he looms large over her because he blazed the football trail first. But because Holley has been playing since she was young, she has the respect of her teammates, coaches and opponents and has been completely accepted.

When her team plays an opponent from outside the area that tries to attack her because they think her spot on the line is weak, they quickly are proven wrong. Vern recalled the last time it happened, against a team from Cincinnati her freshman year.

"Like a lot of rock-headed coaches, they tried to run the ball at her twice in a row. They got stonewalled," Vern said. "They didn't run that way anymore. She makes believers out of folks. Holley just enjoys that cold rush when you smack into somebody. It's hard for me to say about my little buttercup, but it's true."

She even has attended Ohio State football camps since eighth grade, winning the Best Offensive Lineman Award several times. "It was an eye opener for a lot of guys," she said.

Holley does more than play football. She also throws the discus and shot put, and set the AAU girls record for squat lifting at 525 pounds, breaking the old mark of 470. When asked about whether he could top that, Nick said, "I can always beat her. It's the big brother syndrome."

Good genes run in the family. Vern played right guard in high school, and Therese was captain of her swim team in college. Kelley is on a swimming scholarship at Agnes Scott College starting in the fall. The youngest child, 7-year-old Maggey, plays basketball and does gymnastics.

But it appears only Nick and Holley were the only siblings to catch the football bug.

"I have a lot of people come up to me and ask since I play football am I a feminist?" Holley said. "No, not at all. I don't think, 'I am woman hear me roar.' It was simply because football is one of the greatest sports there is and if I can keep doing it like my brother, that would be amazing."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index