Haley Van Voorhis makes history as first woman non-kicker playing NCAA football

Shenandoah University safety Haley Van Voorhis has made U.S. college football history by becoming the first woman to feature in an NCAA game at a position other than kicker. Several women have kicked and scored during the last decade, but the Hornets junior is the first to play defence.

Van Voorhis even hurried Juniata Eagles quarterback Calvin German during the first quarter of a blowout 48-7 win. Despite giving up six inches in height and some 30 pounds, the Shenandoah safety wrapped him up and grounded him after forcing an incomplete third-down pass.

She has spent the last two seasons playing junior varsity at the Winchester, Virginia-based school. Away from the field, Van Voorhis is also a sprinter on the track and field team.

Before college, Van Voorhis was an all-state honourable mention for 2019 at Christchurch in high school. So, she is already used to hearing herself talked about as a woman playing football.

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“There are definitely people out there who see the story and think, ‘This girl’s going to get hurt,'” she told ESPN in a 2021 interview. “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.”

Her coach back then, Scott Yoder, described her as a “very determined” person. Two years on, he remains in her corner after putting her in for the play against Juniata.

Despite the limited playing time, Yoder has no qualms about playing her more in the future. He told the Washington Post, “Her role will grow, definitely.”

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Yoder also painted a picture of what Van Voorhis is like away from the field. “Haley’s been a great teammate,” the coach said. “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.”

Van Voorhis also spoke to the Post after her headline-making day. “It’s an amazing thing,” she admitted. “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.”

She shared a similar sentiment on Instagram to mark the occasion. Posting a photo of her out on the field, she captioned it: “(I’M)POSSIBLE,” before adding that this is “just the beginning…”

Speaking to the Post, she also had a message for the women watching out there. “I would just say, don’t listen to people who say don’t do it,” Haley Van Voorhis said. “Don’t be scared. Just go at it with everything you can.”

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