Women in College Football: The trailblazers that made history in 2023

Jackson State's kicker Leilani Armenta (35) watches from the sidelines during the game against the Texas Southern Tigers at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Football Stadium in Jackson, Miss., on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.
Jackson State's kicker Leilani Armenta (35) watches from the sidelines during the game against the Texas Southern Tigers at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Football Stadium in Jackson, Miss., on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

The 2023 college football season was a momentous occasion for women, who made headlines and broke barriers in the sport.

Despite being told that football is not a "girl's sport" and that they are not physically built for it, female trailblazers proved the doubters wrong by letting their actions on the field speak for themselves, and becoming pioneers in college football.

Women have made significant contributions to college football through playing, coaching, conditioning, and officiating, demonstrating that they belong in the sport.

Women in College Football History

Women have been making history and breaking barriers in football since 1997. Liz Heaston became the first woman to score in a collegiate football game with NAIA Willamette, paving the way for women in kicking positions on football teams. Jacksonville State’s kicker Ashley Martin followed her lead in 2001, becoming the first woman to play and score at the FCS level.

In 2003, Katie Hnida transferred from Colorado to New Mexico and became the first woman to score in a Division I-A game.

In 2015, April Goss made history by becoming the second woman to score a point in a major college football game when she secured the extra point for Kent State against Delaware.

In 2020, Sarah Fuller made history by becoming the first woman to score in a Power Five conference game after successfully kicking two extra points for Vanderbilt against the University of Tennessee.

Women have also been breaking barriers in other football positions, with Antoinette Harris receiving a full college scholarship at Central Methodist as a defensive back in 2019, making her the first female skill-position player to do so. Harris dreamed of being the first woman in the NFL.

2023 College Football Trailblazers

Fast forward to 2023, Leilani Armenta became the first Mexican-American woman to be the first female kicker at Jackson State University, a Historically Black College and NCAA Division I University. Armenta sealed Jackson State’s 22-16 win over rivals Bethune Cookman University with a 25-yard kick.

Armenta, a freshman on the Jackson State women's soccer team, was asked by coach Ted Flogaites if she would be interested in using her high school place-kicking experience to help the football team. Armenta has now announced that she is stepping away from soccer to pursue a college football career at Jackson State.

Haley Van Voorhis became the first female football player to appear in an NCAA football game outside in the safety position for Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, a Division III college. Van Voorhis, registered a quarterback hurry, resulting in an incomplete pass by the QB against Juniata College on the same day.

These trailblazers have shown that hard work and dedication can prove any doubters wrong and women can do anything they put their mind too, including playing college football.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2023 was another big win for women in college football