March 2, 2012 3:41:00 AM
Inexperience never was an excuse for Katie Proctor.
When she first joined the Columbus High School girls soccer team as a freshman, Proctor didn't know any way else to play but to go all out. The score or the time remaining in the match didn't matter because Proctor realized even as a ninth-grader it was up to her to set a pace she hoped others were going to follow.
Three years later, Proctor is still setting the example. On Wednesday, that mind-set earned Proctor an opportunity to continue to play the game she loves when she signed a scholarship with Itawamba Community College in Fulton.
"I always wanted to (play soccer in college), but I never knew if I would be good enough to make it, walk on, or get a scholarship," Proctor said. "I am just really happy I got this chance to play in college. It is exciting, but (the recruiting process) was nerve-wracking, too."
ICC coach Mike Sullivan watched Proctor play this season in a match against Tupelo High. Even though Tupelo, a perennial state title contender, outmatched Columbus, Sullivan noticed Proctor never stopped hustling, working hard, and competing for balls. He said Proctor's tenacity stuck with him as he recruited to fill openings on his 2012 team.
"For 80 minutes, she just fought and fought and fought and fought," Sullivan said. "Some people would shut down and be like, 'Oh whatever, we're getting killed. I am just going to wait until next game.' I could tell that wasn't her. She was still fighting and running hard. That is one of the things I am always looking for in a player. That tells me I am getting somebody I want to work with."
Proctor didn't think she played well in the match against Tupelo. Columbus High School coach Lyn Taylor told her Sullivan was at the match. Afterward, she thought the performance would do more harm than good and didn't expect to hear from Sullivan.
"She told me I did good and that I didn't quit," Proctor said. "Our other coach (Chuck Yarborough) told me he noticed I was the only one that wasn't quitting and kept going. He said that was a good thing and that he knew coach Sullivan would see that in me, even though the score wasn't as good as it should have been."
Proctor didn't talk to Sullivan after the Tupelo match. She didn't know what was going to happen until last week when Taylor told her to expect a call from Sullivan.
"I didn't believe her at first," Proctor said. "I don't think he will, but he did."
Sullivan invited Proctor and her family to Fulton to visit the campus. The whirlwind courtship didn't take long, but that didn't bother Proctor. and seemed like a fitting reward to Taylor.
"She is most dedicated player I have ever coached," Taylor said. "She is a hard worker, she loves the game, she never gives up, and she is a leader."
Taylor said Proctor had that attitude when she joined the program. She may not have been the biggest player, but she said the way she played made an impression on everyone and helped her become a leader at an early age. She also feels ICC is blessed to get a player like Proctor, who she said is soft spoken. That won't be a problem in college, though, because Taylor said Proctor's actions speak louder and mean more than any words.
Taylor said Proctor played a key role in the center midfield this season. She said the chance to play at a higher level will help Proctor develop even more confidence. She also is excited because it will show the Lady Falcons what they can accomplish if they work hard.
"That, too, is setting an example for the girls to expect great things and that they, too, can do it," Taylor said.
Proctor hopes that will be the case because she knows she worked hard to set the bar high for her teammates. She hopes all of them will do their best to reach that mark and to eclipse it. If they do, Proctor will feel a sense of pride because she will have started something special, just like she did when she was a freshman.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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