Originally created 09/01/01

Female kicker beats nerves to score on first try



JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Ashley Martin's knees were knocking as she ran on the football field. A swarm of butterflies fluttered in her stomach.

"I tried not to think about a bunch of people being there," Martin said. She even recited a little prayer.

It worked.

With a brown ponytail peeking out her helmet, Martin booted a perfect point-after kick for Jacksonville State on Thursday to become the first woman to play - and score - in a Division I football game.

The crowd of more than 11,000 gave her a long standing ovation. Martin grinned widely as she trotted off the field to be greeted by her male teammates, who patted her on the head. Some hugged her later.

"Girls rule!" said a fan.

Martin, the second-string kicker, was 3-for-3 on PATs as the Division I-AA Gamecocks beat NAIA Cumberland 72-10. She signed autographs for more than a dozen girls and boys afterward.

"I almost teared up at the end," said Wayne Martin, the kicker's father. He wore a white hat decorated with his daughter's number: 89.

Teammates chanted "Ashley, Ashley!" in the locker room as coach Jack Crowe presented her with the game ball. In fine football form, she said the rest of the team deserved all the credit.

"I didn't do a thing," said the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Martin. "All these guys put all the heart and hard work in it."

Martin is actually a two-sport star at Jacksonville, located about 1 1/2 hours northeast of Birmingham. She is on scholarship as the starting midfielder on Jacksonville State's women's soccer team.

"I've got a game (Friday)," said Martin, who also kicked for her high school football team in Sharpsburg, Ga.

Crowe said Martin's performance at the Division I level wasn't a gimmick or a one-time shot.

"If there's not a soccer conflict, she'll be in uniform," said Crowe. He asked Martin to join the football team after watching her during soccer practice and realizing he needed a backup to starter Steven Lee.

Martin, who didn't take a hit by the Cumberland defense, said she doesn't expect to open the doors to women in college football.

While the Feminist Majority Foundation called her record a victory "for all women in athletics," Martin said she was just happy to contribute to the team.

"Football is a guy's sport and I'm not sure this is the place for a girl," she said. Martin spoke with reporters in the team weight room as other players changed clothes and showered across a hall in the locker room.

The loss was the 18th straight for Cumberland, a school of 1,200 located in Lebanon, Tenn.

At least two other women have suited up in Division I games without playing, in 1995 and 1999.

The only woman to previously score in a college football game was Liz Heaston, who kicked two extra points for then-NAIA Williamette University in 1997.