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Changing the Game: The Stories Behind Some of the First Women on the Football Field

Courtesy of Fitchburg State University

The last couple of weeks have been monumental for women in football. On September 9th, freshman cornerback Taylor Crout went out during the fourth quarter for Division III school Fitchburg State. During her time on the field, she was credited with an assisted tackle. Just two weeks later junior Haley Van Voorhis made her debut on the field as a safety for Division III school Shenandoah University. While on the field Van Voorhis helped force a three and out (when the offense starts a drive, executes three plays in a row, fails to get the first down, and is forced to punt the ball on fourth down) by putting pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback.

Courtesy of Shenandoah University

From a young age, Van Hoorhis has loved the sport of football. When she was younger, she had asked her mom why there were no girls on the field, but she wasn’t discouraged by this. Instead, she told her family that one day she was going to be on the field, and she was going to be playing. Van Hoorhis started doing flag football in elementary school before moving on to tackle football in sixth grade. And even when the boys she was playing against started hitting their growth spurts, she didn’t let that faze her. Instead, she spent many hours in the gym to get bigger and stronger. Van Hoorhis also knew that if she wanted a chance at playing college ball, she’d have to get a lot faster. Her ever-supportive family hired a trainer to help improve her speed. As a junior Van Hoorhis earned an all-state honorable mention in 2019. Unfortunately, her senior season was canceled due to Covid-19. Van Hoorhis didn’t let that stop her though. Even stuck at home she was training around the clock. Running sprints in the driveway, working with resistance bands and weights in the garage, ladder drills in the backyard; whatever she could do to keep up with her training. She was even researching different diets online to help her add more weight. When gyms opened back up she was there all of the time, working and bettering herself to make her dream possible.

Byron Mitchell the assistant coach from Shenandoah was in charge of the shuttle station at a recruiting camp. And one player just happened to catch his eye. That player of course was Hayley Van Hoorhis.

Courtesy of La Legends

A notable mention is Toni Harris. Harris was a safety for Central Methodist University from 2019-2021. She was the first woman to receive a full college scholarship as a nonspecialist and the second woman ever to play football on a scholarship. Harris now plays women's tackle football with the LA Legends.

All in all, these are astounding things being done by amazing to further equality in sports. And personally, I can’t wait to see what these amazing women and those alongside them do next.

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