Haley Van Voorhis becomes first female non-kicker to play in NCAA football game

WINCHESTER, Va. — Haley Van Voorhis made college football history on Saturday, becoming the first female non-kicker to appear in an NCAA football game.

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Van Voorhis, a junior safety at Division III Shenandoah University, entered Saturday’s game against Juniata College with her team ahead by 26 points, ESPN reported. She entered the game with Juniata facing a third-and-7 situation from their own 23, and her quarterback hurry forced a fourth down play. She blitzed Juniata quarterback Calvin German, forcing him to hurry his pass before taking him to the ground, The Washington Post reported.

When Juniata failed to convert on fourth down, the Hornets (2-1) scored again. They would win 48-7 at Shentel Stadium in a non-conference game.

Van Voorhis’ milestone entrance into the game and into the NCAA record books happened only 30 miles from her home in The Plains, Virginia. It was played in mostly wet and dreary conditions thanks to the outer bands of Tropical Storm Ophelia, which impacted the state on Saturday.

“It’s an amazing thing,” the 5-foot-6, 145-pounder told the Post after the game. “I just wanted to get out and do my thing. I want to show other people this is what women can do, to show what I can do. It’s a big moment. I made the impossible possible, and I’m excited about that.”

Van Voorhis attended high school at Christchurch, a private boarding school and was the first female to play football there, the Post reported. She was a 2019 all-state honorable mention. Her senior season was canceled because of COVID-19, according to ESPN. She played wide receiver and defensive back, the Post reported.

In addition to playing football at Shenandoah, she is also a sprinter for the program’s track and field team.

In 2014, defensive back Shelby Osborne became the first woman non-kicker to participate in an NAIA program at Campbellsville University, ESPN reported. She did see any action.

Several women have been college football kickers.

In 2003, Katie Hnida became the first woman to score in an NCAA Division I-A football game as the placekicker at the University of New Mexico. In 2020, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score in a Power 5 football game as the kicker for Vanderbilt University, ESPN reported.

“It’s an extraordinary accomplishment for women everywhere,” university President Tracy Fitzsimmons, the school’s first female president since it was founded in 1875, told the Post. “I am so happy for Haley because she’s earned this. We always say we’re a place for opportunity at Shenandoah, and we proved it again today.”

“Haley’s been a great teammate,” Hornets coach Scott Yoder told the newspaper. “She’s quiet and goes about her business. The guys respect her because she shows up and does the work on the field and in the weight room. She’s been a very positive member of our team. She’s very good mentally and understands her role. I have confidence in her that she knows her job and can execute it.”

Yoder said Van Voorhis has a chance to see more action and that her role on the team “will grow.”

Meanwhile, Van Voorhis said she was happy to be a part of history and encouraged future female athletes to keep working.

“I would just say, don’t listen to people who say, ‘Don’t do it,” she told the Post. “Don’t be scared. Just go at it with everything you can.”

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