Anna Zerilli kicked 29 extra points in her junior season for the Manchester Essex varsity football team last fall. She also booted a 25-yard field goal on Thanksgiving Day in a 49-20 win over Georgetown.
A week ago, the Patriots invited the 16-year-old Rockport resident to Gillette Stadium to practice a few kicks, in addition to answering a few questions for an NFL Network feature, scheduled to air Super Bowl Sunday, on what it is like to be a woman playing a male-only sport.
Zerilli expected to be alone.
“Andrea Kremer was going to be doing the interview. We were allowed to tell her that,” said Zerilli’s mother, Beth.
Zerilli was told that Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski already had left Foxborough for Minneapolis.
So she was in the dark, until Gostkowski emerged from the Patriots locker room, walked onto the field, and said, “Coming to take my job?”
Stacey James, the team’s vice president of media relations, orchestrated the surprise meeting. He asked Gostkowski if he would meet with Zerilli if the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl. Gostkowski happily agreed.
“It was such an honor,” said Zerilli. “It’s a week before the Super Bowl, and one of the best kickers in the country is taking a second to practice with me.”
Zerilli and Gostkowski discussed her hopes of kicking collegiately at the Division 2 or 3 level — as well as kicking tips she hopes will lead to improvement next year.
As a freshman in 2015, Zerilli became the first female kicker in the Cape Ann League to score a point. After completing her third season the Manchester Essex varsity, she was rewarded with an experience she will not soon forget.
She transferred to Proctor Academy (Andover, N.H.) for the winter season and plans to kick for the Hornets next fall. Proctor finished 8-1 last fall, advancing to a NEPSAC bowl game.Katherine Fominykh can be reached at email@example.com.