WINCHESTER, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A freshman at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, an hour and a half outside the nation’s capital, is making history as the first woman on the school’s football team.
Haley Van Voorhis is proud of the trail she is blazing and did her first TV interview with FOX 5’s Sierra Fox.
Football is her passion and Van Voorhis is proof, your size and gender doesn’t matter, as long as you have heart.
"It’s like a spark and a fire that pushes you to want to go harder," said Van Voorhis.
Haley Van Voorhis is making history as the first woman on the Shenandoah University football team.
"I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else. It’s pretty much my dream," said Van Voorhis.
She is the first woman in the United States to play NCAA college football – not signed on as a special teams position. Van Voorhis is a defensive back.
"I feel like I have a lot more on my back that I’m carrying that I have expectations that no one else knows about," said Van Voorhis.
The 18-year-old stands at 5'6" and weighs 145 pounds. She fell in love with the game at a young age and grew up watching the Washington Football team.
"I didn’t know there were any barriers or that girls didn’t play at the time. It was just like – I want to be in the NFL – like when I was five years old, but I didn’t know it was a hard thing to do," said Van Voorhis.
Football Shenandoah University Football Head Coach Scott Yoder calls Van Voorhis a great, dedicated teammate and no one is going easy on her.
"We’ve held her to the same standard as her position group and everybody else and she’s passed with flying colors," said Yoder.
He adds she is clearly giving it her all – determined to make her mark.
"On her visit, she was pretty impressive with her family. We knew she was serious about playing college football," said Yoder. "She’s a fantastic young person and we’re excited about being on this journey with her."
Defensive Coordinator Brock McCullough says it’s Van Voorhis’ kind, quiet, humble spirit that makes her a joy to coach.
"I’ve been around small college football for 25 years – she’s impressive. She’s physically and mentally elite just as far as her work ethic and the work that she put in before she got her was clear and obvious," said McCullough.
Athletic Director Bridget Lyon makes it clear, Van Voorhis was recruited because of her athletic abilities.
"She’s on the field because she’s earned that opportunity," said Lyons. "I think she kind of exemplifies the Division 3 philosophy which is to follow your passion and discover your potential. And I knew this would be a great place for her to compete as a football player."
FOX 5’s Sierra Fox said to Van Voorhis, "There are young girls watching this right now who want to be a football player like you – what’s your message to them?"
"I would say that nothing is stopping you. There are no barriers in the way like if you want to go as far as college, NFL, anything you dream of, go for it. I mean, football is a great sport," said Van Voorhis.
She is an inspiration, such a role model, and it’s amazing to see she is setting the stage for other women – changing the mindset from "what if" to "why not."
Now Van Voorhis hasn’t played a game just yet, but her coach says her time is going to come because she’s outworking her competitors. She is looking forward to that special moment.