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Haley Van Voorhis makes NCAA football history as the first female non-kicker player

Haley Van Voorhis' play led to an incomplete third-down pass by the Juniata quarterback on Saturday. Shenandoah went on to win, 48-7.
Keric Jackson/Shenandoah Athletic Communications
Haley Van Voorhis' play led to an incomplete third-down pass by the Juniata quarterback on Saturday. Shenandoah went on to win, 48-7.

Safety Haley Van Voorhis became the first woman who was not a kicker or punter to appear in a NCAA college football game.

Van Voorhis, a junior at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., was tapped to play Saturday against Juniata College during a Division III game at Shenandoah's Shentel Stadium.

Van Voorhis stepped onto the field during the first quarter and registered a quarterback hurry — which led to an incomplete third-down pass by Juniata quarterback Calvin German. Shenandoah went on to win, 48-7, according to NCAA.

Not only did Van Voorhis, from The Plains, Va., make college football history, she also joined the handful of female athletes to have participated in college football.

In 1997, Liz Heaston, a kicker for the NAIA's Willamette University in Oregon, became the first woman to play and score in a college football game. In 2003, Katie Hnida of the University of New Mexico was credited as the first woman to scoreas a place-kicker in an NCAA Division I-A game, the highest level of college football in the U.S.

In 2020, Sarah Fuller from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., became the first female athlete to suit up for a Power Five college football game.

In high school, Van Voorhis received honors for both football and basketball. This was her first year playing for Shenandoah's varsity squad.

"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 told The Washington Post on Saturday.

Van Voorhis deserved her place on the field, says Shenandoah football coach, Scott Yoder.

"She has been working hard and it's great to see her take advantage of the opportunity she has earned," Yoder told NPR.

Shenandoah University's president, Tracy Fitzsimmons, described Saturday's play as an inspiring feat that goes beyond football.

"What makes this particularly exciting is that Haley's accomplishment is not just a well-earned personal achievement, but also a victory for all women and girls," Fitzsimmons said in a statement.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.