Haley Van Voorhis, a safety for Division III Shenandoah University, made history by becoming the first woman to appear in an NCAA football game at a position other than kicker on Saturday.
In Shenandoah’s 48-7 home victory over Juniata, the five-foot-six, 145-pound junior showcased her skills by tackling the opposing team’s quarterback in the first quarter.
Despite bringing down the quarterback just after the ball was released, resulting in an incomplete pass on third down, the achievement marked a significant milestone for women in college football.
Van Voorhis, who previously played high school football at Christchurch High in Virginia, expressed her excitement and desire to inspire others with her accomplishment.
“It’s an amazing thing,” she commented to The Washington Post. ” 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.”
Now 19 years old and hailing from Plains, Virginia, she joined the Shenandoah Hornets’ football program in 2021, continuing to defy stereotypes and push boundaries in the sport.
While acknowledging that some may question her abilities due to her gender, size, or weight, Van Voorhis remains undeterred.
In a 2021 interview with ESPN, she addressed the doubts and criticisms she faces for being a woman on the field.
“There’s definitely people out there who see the story and think, ”This girl’s going to get hurt,” she the Division III safety remarked.
“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.”
Head coach Scott Yoder commended Van Voorhis for her dedication and perseverance, highlighting her work ethic and deservedness of the opportunity she earned.
Yoder emphasized that, at its core, Van Voorhis’ journey is no different from any other young person seeking a chance to pursue their passion.
“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 commented.
In addition to football, she also competes as a sprinter on Shenandoah’s track and field team, showcasing her versatility in various athletic disciplines.
Van Voorhis is the eighth female athlete to take the field in an NCAA game. Liz Heaston paved the way for her female peers on Oct. 18, 1997, when she became the first woman to score in college football with two extra points.
Tonya Butler was the first woman to kick and score a field goal in the NCAA on Sept. 13, 2003, while Sarah Fuller became the first woman make score in Power Five conference game for Vanderbilt in 2020.