J A C K S O N V I L L E, Ala., Aug. 31, 2001 -- Ashley Martin doesn't want to make a big deal about it, but the kick she delivered for Jacksonville State University last night made college football history.
Martin became the first woman to play and score in a Division I football game. (The NCAA doesn't keep records, but everyone seems to agree it was historic.) Martin scored an extra point, giving Jacksonville State a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter in its game against Cumberland. The team won its season opener 72-10, with Martin kicking a total of three extra points without a single miss.
Martin said she didn't join the football team to assert any sort of girl power. Nor did she do it to break down doors for any women itching to get onto the football field.
Martin told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that she was surprised by the reaction in the stands when she arrived on the field — they gave her a standing ovation.
"I have to be honest, I didn't even look up," Martin said. "I was getting off the field and talking to my teammates and everything."
Battle of the Sexes
Around campus, the opening game was being billed as a "Battle of the Sexes." T-shirts were sold that featured a caricature of Martin kicking a Cumberland player through the uprights. Jacksonville State plays at the I-AA level.
Martin had kicked for two years at East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Ga., so she was no stranger to football.
But her college football career started because Jacksonville State Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe needed a kicker who could kick extra points for the team. His lead kicker, Steven Lee, could do the kick-offs and field goals, but he needed another kicker. He was mulling over this dilemma, when he looked outside his office, to a field where the Lady Gamecocks soccer team practiced.
It was hard not to notice Martin, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound sophomore who ended each practice by replacing a soccer ball with a football. Her kick was so powerful and precise, and her demeanor so competitive, that Crowe asked her to join the team last spring.
Her new teammates never had a problem with their new female addition.
"They have always been very supportive, ever since the beginning of preseason," Martin said. "They have become my friends and brothers."
Still a Soccer Player
Martin's soccer coach said she could kick for the men's football team if it didn't conflict with the soccer schedule, so she will be playing four more football games at the most. Martin is attending the college on a soccer scholarship.
At least two other women have suited up in Division I games without playing. Kathy Klop dressed for the University of Louiville in 1995, and Katie Hnida for Colorado University in 1999. Neither woman played.
The only woman to previously score in a college football game was Liz Heaston, who kicked two extra points for then-NAIA Division III Willamette University in Salem, Ore., in 1997.