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DIII safety 1st woman non-kicker to play in NCAA

DIII safety 1st woman non-kicker to play in NCAA
  • PublishedSeptember 24, 2023

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Haley Van Voorhis, a safety at Division-III Shenandoah University, became the first woman non-kicker to appear in an NCAA football game on Saturday against Juniata.

She came on in the first quarter with Shenandoah already up 26 points and registered a quarterback hurry on third down.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Van Voorhis said after the game, according to the Washington Post. “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.”

Shenandoah went on to beat Juniata 48-7.

A 5-foot-6, 145-pound junior, Van Voorhis spent the past two seasons playing on junior varsity. The Plains, Virginia, native went to high school at Christchurch and was a 2019 all-state honorable mention. Her senior season was canceled because of COVID-19.

Van Voorhis is also a member of Shenandoah’s track and field team, running sprints.

In 2014, defensive back Shelby Osborne became the first woman non-kicker to participate in an NAIA program at Campbellsville University. However, she did not appear in a game.

Multiple women have played kicking positions in college football. In 2003, Katie Hnida became the first woman to score in an NCAA Division I-A football game as the place-kicker at New Mexico. Seventeen years later, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score in a Power 5 football game as the kicker for Vanderbilt.

In an interview with ESPN in 2021, Van Voorhis said she’s used to people pointing out that she’s the only girl playing football, whether it was during Pop Warner or at high school.

“There’s definitely people out there who see the story and think, ‘This girl’s going to get hurt,'” she said. “I hear that a lot. Or, ‘She’s too small, doesn’t weigh enough, not tall enough.’ But I’m not the shortest on my team, and I’m not the lightest.”

Shenandoah coach Scott Yoder told ESPN in 2021 that Van Voorhis is “very determined” young person.

“What has really helped me has been when you peel everything back it’s about a young person who wants an opportunity, who works for it and has earned an opportunity,” he said. “For 21 years I’ve been fortunate to be on the coaching side of that. And at the core of this, it’s no different.”

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